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 course to help you play better golf.
The Armchair Golf Pro is taking a little departure this week. Like many of you I enjoyed watching the Super Bowl, but there are lessons that can be taken from any sports contest. Here’s my take-away, and it centers on the ebb and flow of the performance of the two quarterbacks, Rodgers and Roethlisberger, and how we have our own ebbs and flows on the golf course.
As Rodgers started the game I thought he was calm and focused. The Packers grabbed the momentum early, and it was reflected in Rodgers’ purposeful and deliberate play. I attribute that to having a solid game plan in which he had trust and confidence, and a couple of early breaks. Roethlisberger, in contrast, looked hurried and over-anxious, and was more erratic in the early going.
How many of us are like Roethlisberger at the beginning of our round? Not sure what will happen. A little anxious. A little quick. Trying to do too much too soon.
When you see a Tour pro on the range warming up before a round they are there to do two things: Establish their rhythm and tempo; and find out what swing they have that day. They are not there to practice or to fix their swing. They want to know whether they are hitting a fade or a draw that day so they can create a strategy that will allow them to step up to the first tee with a game plan that gives them confidence – because they know what to expect. Like Rodgers in the early going.
But as the game continued Roethlisberger settled down and by the middle of the second quarter the Steelers took the momentum back. And isn’t that often the case when we get on the course?
Your first few holes are rocky, and then you find a little groove and settle in. The question to ask – if you want to avoid those first few rocky holes – is what happens when you settle in? Make a note to observe yourself going through this transition the next time you play. Pay attention to what you feel like when you find that groove. What happens to your tempo? Do you notice changes in tension levels? Do you have a better idea of what to expect and are therefore more confident? Does your focus improve? Do you make better strategic choices?
Once you discover the difference between your groove state and the rocky-start state, you can start figuring out how to set up the groove state when you are on the range warming up, so that you already have it by the time you get to the first tee. Odds are it’s going to be as simple as finding out what kind of swing you have that day, and then figuring out how to get comfortable with it.
Comfort is a big deal. By the end of the third quarter the Steelers had the momentum and were charging. Rodgers seemed out of sync. What happened?
How many times have you made it to the 14th or 15th hole, realized you had a really good round going, and started thinking that if you can only make par coming in you could shoot a really good number? And then the wheels come off.
When you are not comfortable with a situation it’s easy to get out of the moment and away from the task at hand. Like Rodgers you feel the heat and start to press, trying to do too much. You get out of rhythm. Rodgers still made a number of great plays, but isn’t that like us when we scramble?
The trick is to stay in the moment and focus only on the task at hand. Let the score take care of itself. Often the answer will boil down to selecting a shot strategy that you know you can be comfortable executing. Like the Packers switching to running plays and short passes to get Rodgers comfortable again. If you want to finish strong, find your comfort zone and play within it. Like the Packers, you’ll carry the day.
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