Well the first tournament round in over a year is complete. I am currently teetering on being extremely disappointed and frustrated vs. trying to be positive and learn as much as I can from this round. It was definitely not exactly the way I had envisioned today unfolding. But I know what I would tell any player I work with… you need to takeaway what you can to learn and move forward. So perhaps I should take my own advice and see what I can learn from today to move forward and improve tomorrow.
First off – Recap:
One thing I did well: I made two great par saving putts down the stretch
One thing I need to improve on: My focus over the ball (more details on this below)
One thing that I need to accept: I did not put in enough work on my mental game in preparation for this tournament therefore I need to take full responsibility for that part of my game not being where it should be (even those of us who work in the field need to make sure they put in the time! Mental toughness does not just appear, it comes with hard work like anything else).
So this blog is going to be about focus. This was the biggest issue for me today. Where I was directing my focus was not helping me play golf. I was playing ‘golf swing’ not golf! I would go through my normal routine and pick targets, but once over the ball I was very focused on where I was in my back swing rather than connecting with my target. This is a bad habit of mine. I used to be very technically focused, and when I resort back to that my golf suffers. When I play my best golf, I can feel my swing in relation to the target without thinking about putting it in specific positions. I can make a connection to reacting to a target versus controlling a swing and trying to hit positions. I like to think of the analogies of how we would throw a baseball or shoot a puck on net. We see the target and just react. We do not go through ….’take my right elbow back, drop my shoulder this way….blah blah’ – we see it, and then react. I feel once we have gone through the thinking part of the pre-shot routine (what is my target, wind, lye etc), we should just be reacting to our target. I have done a lot of reading and studying on the topic of external focus in sports (I talked a lot about this in my blog from last tournament season), and there is very compelling evidence to support that we perform better when we are externally focused vs. internally focused. Yet I resorted back to a technical, internal focus! Why!? Well I guess it is a bit of a comfort zone…. For some reason it makes me feel more in control (despite hitting the ball way worse). I feel like if I hit these certain positions, the ball will go to my target, however, if I don’t know where that target is, I’m not so sure it really matters what position I am in in my backswing! So despite it feeling more comfortable, sometimes we need to give up a bit of that control to actually gain control. Last year when I was preparing for this tournament, I worked only on my mental game. I visualized targets, I watched videos of great tempos, I watched the tempo and smoothness of great putters and then envisioned that in my own golf game. This worked extremely well for me. And because I had no time to practice with any clubs, I just imagined what everything would feel like. I found my swing held up the whole tournament last year and I hit great shots under pressure coming down the stretch. My swing thoughts were just on feeling a consistent tempo and connecting with the target. This time in preparing, I was not doing my usual mental prep. I was on the course a bit and went to the range a few times, but even yesterday during my 9 hole practice round I started fiddling with my golf swing, I was paying more attention to my shoulder turn then the golf course and how I wanted to play each hole. Granted, my swing was getting rather long and making it tough to get back to square at impact, but my swing has always been a bit on the long side and I have made the most of it when I can still commit to targets and just feel.
So, what am I taking away so that I can bounce back tomorrow? 1. I am going to go to the range tonight and feel a tempo in my swing and then stick with that tempo-feeling for the whole round. 2. Get back to being target oriented. Once over the ball I want to have a feel of where that target is. If I were to close my eyes and point to the target at address, would I be able to guess right where it is? 3. Get back to being externally focused. I want to feel that tempo right through to my finish position in connection with the target. These are all external focuses. 4. Decide on my game plan for the round tomorrow. I want to go through in my head tonight how I want to play the course tomorrow.
Well sometimes these frustrating rounds truly are the ones we learn the most from. Golf is like a puzzle, continually trying to piece everything together to figure out how to make it work. This is the great thing about tournaments, it exposes the areas we haven’t been putting in the time to work on and reminds us to never get complacent in any areas. So in conclusion, as disappointing as the end result was today, it sure was great to be back in the competitive swing of things and I am very excited to have a clear idea of what I want to work on moving forward!
Stay tuned for the recap of round #2 tomorrow!