From time to time this crazy game gives us a glimpse of what we're capable of. The next challenge is to not buckle under the great weight of expectation
If you needed a lesson as to the vagaries of golf, look no further than the final round of the 2020 South African Open. During what was an extremely enjoyable and high quality day’s play, there were many talking points.
Defending champion Louis Oosthuizen entered Sunday with a one-stroke lead and barely put a foot wrong during a closing 69 – which included a hole-in-one. But not only was this not good enough to secure victory, he would end up a distant second, three strokes behind fellow countryman, Branden Grace.
There is absolutely no better way to take the lead in a golf tournament. pic.twitter.com/F6PluvnwJq
— NCG (@NCG_com) January 12, 2020
Grace started the day three back and an early bogey did little to suggest what was to come. What followed however, was one of the greatest displays of putting I’ve ever seen.
To put into context, Grace played holes three through fourteen in 10-under, one-putting 13 times in that 12-hole stretch. And these were no tap-ins.
I watched on in amazement, each time thinking he surely can’t hole another one.
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) January 12, 2020
In total, Grace had 22 putts – nine fewer than Oosthuizen – and admitted afterwards he couldn’t remember the last time his putter had been so “hot”.
And it got me thinking.
Despite the brutal nature of golf, every so often it offers us a ray of hope – by and large, this is what keeps us coming back.
Without rhyme or reason, occasionally one or more parts of our game are just on. What then becomes the challenge is keeping it on.
The enormity of this is normally too much for the amateur golfer – something which further separates the pros from us mere mortals – so what can you do differently the next time you’re faced with this rare dilemma?
Here’s Matt Shaw, a performance psychologist from InnerDrive, to pass on a few mental tips: “Playing at your best might not happen too often so staying at your best is important.
“For me, a general rule of thumb that’ll give you the best chance is ‘less is more’. During a round, if you’ve hit a purple patch, try and avoid future thinking – for example letting your attention skip ahead to upcoming holes – or over-analysing what’s happening.
“Instead of allowing ideas of what you might or could shoot to enter your head, stick to your process – it’s worked up to that point after all.
“Lastly, enjoy it. Generally speaking, happy golfers are good golfers.”
What mental tips do you take to the course? Let me know in the comments or tweet me.