Armchair Golf Pro: Byrd in Hand at Hyundai Golf Tournament

The Armchair Golf Pro writes about PGA Tour events each week. Like you he is watching from his comfy armchair, enjoying the competition and drama, but also pulling lessons and observations you can use to your advantage on the golf course to help you play better golf.

The Tournament of Champions (now sponsored by Hyundai – formerly the Mercedes Championship), kicks off the 2011 PGA Tour golf season. It’s hard to believe the golf season has already started! All the players are winners on the Tour the previous year or past winners of the event, so it’s a very competitive field. Jonathan Byrd defeated Robert Garrigus on the second hole of a playoff after both players finished at a record-setting -24 under for the week.

Byrd and Garrigus are interesting stories. Byrd was 130th on the money list last year and in danger of losing his card until the last tournament of the season, the Justin Timberlake Shriners tournament. Byrd finished tied for first, and on the first playoff hole made an ace to win. What a finish!

Throughout the fall he’d been steadily playing better and better by, as he said, making things simpler and simpler. Instead of striving for perfection and judging his performance as he had been, he made an attitude change. He wanted to have more fun. So he quit worrying about perfection and focused instead on being consistent with whatever shot he had at the time.

Consistency Trumps Perfection

That’s a great take-away from the Armchair Pro for you to remember: it’s more important to hit the same shot, consistently, than it is to hit a perfect shot. Striving for perfection leads to misery. Understanding your predominant tendency and allowing it to happen is a lot less stressful and a lot more reliable way to play golf. Having a shot you can rely on – even if it is not the shape or contact you’d ideally like to have – will make the game a lot more fun.

You can work on your shot shape or contact over time. But when you play you have to dance with the partner you brought that day.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - NOVEMBER 13:  Robert Ga...

Getty Images via @daylife

Now to Garrigus. Last year Garrigus had the infamous melt-down at the St Jude tournament in Memphis. He took a 3-shot lead into the last hole and then imploded, making a triple-bogey to end in a tie, and then eventually lose in a playoff. Ouch!

Garrigus could have disappeared from the planet after blowing a tournament like that. The mental pressure is crushing because the doubts set in, you stop trusting yourself, and you wonder what people will be saying the next time you step up on the tee.

Your Attitude is a Choice

But to Garrisgus’s credit he realized that how he interpreted his performance was a choice he could make. It was up to him to choose to define it in a negative or positive way. And he chose positive. He took the all the good things he did that week and built on them, and all the bad things he did and treated them as part of his learning curve. His overriding philosophy? He’s in it for the long haul. He’s not going to live or die by one tournament or one shot. He realizes it is a process, and he’s going to have fun and enjoy the scenery along the way. By the end of the season he notched a win at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic to earn his spot in this season opener and eventually the playoff.

Staying Calm When The World Starts Moving Too Fast

As the playoff started you had to think “advantage Garrigus.” The first playoff hole was the par-5 18th at 603 yards, and Garrigus is the longest hitter on the tour, averaging over 315 yards in 2010. Byrd, in contrast, was 64th in driving distance.

But they tied with pars and moved on to the second playoff hole. Both wound up on the green with long birdie putts. Byrd putted first and knocked it close enough to tap in for par. Garrigus had a chance to win with birdie. He made an aggressive putt and wound up 2-1/2 feet past the hole. That’s when he made what I think was his mental mistake, which ultimately cost him the tournament.

Garrigus is naturally amped up, so he has to remember to breathe deeply to slow down. Otherwise his brain gets flooded with information and it is hard to make good decisions. As Garrigus made his first putt and started walking to the hole he took a couple of slow steps, then sped up. He walked too fast to his ball, which had the effect of amping him back up. He rushed his short putt and hit it too hard, giving Byrd the victory.

What he could have done instead was use the pacing of his steps as another method to stay calmer. Walking in measured steps can have the same affect as using deep, measured breathing to slow down.

It’s a lesson we can all take away and remember to use the next time we are in a pressure situation and starting to get flooded with information. Walk in measured steps and take time to breathe to help maintain the right amount of focus and energy.

As always your comments and questions are welcome! Please remember to use the “Like” button and share this post with your fellow golfers.

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