"Grind it out."
While not original, it seems that I heard this term more this week than any other time in major championship golf. The ability to grind it out is often what separates the great from the good.
In a previous life I was a competitive golfer. While that is a subject for another day, it was left-to-left shaped shots that got me into coaching. Think Rory McIlroy on number 10 at Augusta in 2011. I can say that a lot of lessons were learned on the golf course that helped my coaching career.
Grind it out is one of those lessons, but there are others:
Golf is very hard even for the best players in the world. There has to be extraordinary attention to detail.
More than any other sport, your personal life affects your competitive life. If your personal life is a mess, it will creep into your golf game. When you pick up one end of the stick, you pick up the other.
When you are the Alpha-male, and you lose it, you won't get it back. There are too many players working too hard to let you get your status back.
Mental stress affects you physically.
There is no putt too short not to be missed.
There are more good players now than ever before in history. The instruction is better, the training is better, the equipment is better, and the courses are better. The level of competition is better than ever, and more players are capable of winning major championships than ever. Over the last 14 major championships, there have been 14 different winners.
Trust and belief in yourself is paramount. If you do not trust yourself, you cannot play.
You cannot get so mechanical that you forget to play the game. You are either hitting shots or playing the game. When great players in any sport are playing their best, they are simply playing the game. Reaction is significantly better than conscious thought. That is what practice is for: to make the correct response instinctive without having to think.
Knowing the rules and their applications helps. After going into the water on the 15th Saturday, Justin Rose got to drop on the side of the hazard. While keeping the spot he entered the hazard between him and the hole, he was able to pitch the ball across the length of the green and not over the water. If he did not know the rule he would have had to cross the water with his pitch from the drop area. Great players in any sport know the rules and use them to their advantage.
Energy is important, and that is the first thing that declines as we get older. The second law of thermodynamics states this, but that is a subject for another article. Fatigue of any kind leads to poor decisions and shaky execution. In major championships where the margins are so thin, this is often the difference between success and failure.
Just because you can do something once does not mean you can do it again. Consistency over a period of time is the mark of a true champion.
Interesting Masters terminology: Patron Observation Platform = Bleachers
Sometimes you just have to punt. And your best choice may be to go back to the tee.
You cannot have a calm mind unless you can visualize the result before it happens.
"Convenient memory" is a necessity for both good and bad occurrences. After Phil Mickelson's two triple bogeys and Peter Hanson's shank on 12, both had to get back to work. Also, after Oosthuizen's double eagle, he had to get right back to business. Even though that was the first "Albatross" on hole number 2 in Masters history, Oosthusizen still had more than four hours of work ahead of him.
You have to meet success and failure on the same plane. Evenness of temperament is critical in golf. One minute you are driving the ball as far as possible, the next minute you are trying to make a three-foot downhill, side hill putt. You cannot get too high or too low to be successful.
Back to "grind it out." After his Albatross on the par 5 second, Oosthuizen had to grind the rest of the round with par saving putts on 3, 6 and 14, birdie pitches and putts on 13 and 15, a bunker shot and putt on 17 to save par and a gutsy 5 footer for a two-putt on 18 to get into a playoff.
Phil Mickelson ground it out Thursday after his triple-bogey on 10 to birdie 17 and 18 to salvage a two-over par 74. That kept him in the tournament until he could make his run on Saturday.
Tiger Woods was grinding as well. That is his natural personality. He is frustrated because he is trying so hard and the results are not there. Effort does not necessarily equal success.
It looks neat and clean, but competing in a golf tournament is more like bringing your lunch bucket to work than white table cloth dining. It is hard, tough and long. There is no other game that requires the level of concentration and focus as tournament golf does for as long as it takes. Four and an half to five hours per day for four days. All with the knowledge that you cannot win the tournament with any one shot, but you sure can lose it.
You grind it out one shot, or one play, at a time. No let up. Nothing taken for granted.
That was one of my advantages in coaching that I could concentrate and focus one play at a time and do it over long periods of time. It also was a quality I taught to the players and coaching staff. It is what champions do in any sport.
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