James Morrison: How tour players seek a competitive edgeOctober, 2015
Our columnist describes the tiny margins which contribute to victory on the course
When I came on tour six years ago I never had a psychologist.
It is one of those things where you always convince yourself that you have good mental strength when, deep down, you haven’t.
We’re all good when we’re playing well but it easily goes when you are playing badly and that was my biggest weakness. Out on tour it’s not about winning every week or finishing in the top five, it’s about winning your own personal mental battles.
Recently at the European Open in Germany I technically played the worst that I have done for a long time and I still finished 12th. For me it was a battle of pride, and not wanting to miss the cut, but I turned it into a good week.
In years previous, where I have been comfortable or safe in terms of keeping my card, I have still had a lot of off weeks. My bad weeks have to be better if I am going to keep climbing the world rankings.
Justin Rose is a big role model of mine. We share the same trainer, and he is brilliant at sticking to what he has got to do. He might be two over early on Thursday and then the next time you see him he’s up there contending on the leaderboard.
All the tops guys are mentally so strong. Some won’t talk about who they work with but I’m pretty sure everyone works with someone. I work with Lee Crombleholme and he has been a massive help for me. He is out with us lots of weeks on tour and we will have a chat for half an hour here or there.
Look at Jordan Spieth: he is openly vocal about his shots and that is his way of letting it out and then it’s gone" It is up to both of us to keep it fresh and open and honest. For me it is more about thinking less. Lee helps a lot with my putting and he has a brainwave monitor which you put on your head and it calculates focus and shows how clear your head is.
If you pick a spot in the distance and focus on it for long enough it will clear. To putt well I have to get my eyes into the putt and focus on the hole and my stats have really improved this year.
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I think I’m pretty good at switching off between shots. You have to be as you are out there five or so hours and, if you don’t switch off, you will be fried by Sunday.
Look at Jordan Spieth: he is openly vocal about his shots and that is his way of letting it out and then it’s gone.
Other players bottle it up and bottle it up and then explode and that’s the round gone. In a constructive way you need to get it out, even if it is talking to yourself.
When I won in Spain this season I didn’t look at any leaderboards on the Sunday.
It’s hard, particularly when you have a reminder of the scores wherever you look, but I would really get stuck into my yardage book and focus on myself as opposed to quietly obsessing about what other players are doing.
It is also hard to switch off when you are playing with a big name. I played with Phil Mickelson in the last round of the Open, which was such a thrill, and it was even more enjoyable because I was able to stick to my own game plan.
It would have been easy to tune out, just watch him and get into his round but I managed to do my job and we both shot 69 around the Old Course.
Everyone is human and you have your off days. It is tough if the swing and brain aren’t quite there. Your routine is crucial and if you are having a bad day mentally or even if you are leading the tournament, then your process can take over.
Fitness is another key area for any player. I have worked with Justin Buckthorp for five or six years but it is only the last two years where I have made it part of my life.
Knowing what I can and can’t eat is so important and I have done some stomach and urine tests to see what works best for my body. Again, Justin Rose is brilliant at this and I am trying to do the same thing.
It used to be that you would work out in the off-season and then play the rest of the year. That’s not how it works now. Everyone is lifting weights every week these days.
The hardest thing about the gym is getting there, once you’re there it’s great. And my gym work reflects in my swing, if I haven’t done any movement then my swing isn’t as good.