The first time I played in the final group of a tournament was in September of 2009. It was a two-day Pepsi Tour event at Ocotillo Golf Club in Chandler, AZ. Going into the final day, I was one shot behind after shooting a 71 the first day. This was my first real opportunity to win and I really needed the $1,800 first place check.
The night before the final round I didn’t sleep much. I remember visualizing my swing over and over throughout the night. Just a few weeks before, I had figured out how to get my club-head to drop under the back-swing plane on the downswing. This gave me an amazing feel of control during my swing that I had never had before.
During that night, I also visualized all of my putts going in the center of the hole as I played the course in my mind. I remember I would get through about 9 or 10 holes in my mind and then fall asleep. I would wake up again and start visualizing on hole number one and get through about 9 or 10 holes and then fall back asleep. I know I repeated this process quite a few times throughout the night.
Morning finally dawned and I teed off on the first hole. I was pretty nervous and I chunked my wedge shot on the first hole to 45′ short of the flag. Then I stepped up and drained the putt for birdie! After that, I birdied the next three holes. Starting out with 4 straight birdies was great, but what really kept my round going was a 12′ par saving putt on number 5. Then I birdied number 6, parred number 7, and birdied number 8. I still remember the feeling that I experienced on that eighth green. I remember thinking that it felt like I was outside of my body watching myself putt. It felt like I could hit the putt on any line and it would go in.
I parred numbers 9 and 10 and then birdied number 11. I was 7 under par through 11 holes and was leading by 6 shots when some funny things started happening. I started tightening up. Looking back I believe it was because I only visualized the first part of the course. Also, I had not visualized what it would feel like to run away with the tournament.
On number 14, I missed a 3′ putt for par. All of a sudden I had a too many thoughts rushing through my mind at once. I remember thinking that if I made a couple bogeys the other guys would be right back in it. Thank goodness that I did not entertain those thoughts for very long. My mental training kicked in on the next shot and I got back to focusing more on my shot process than the result. I ended up shooting even par for the last 4 holes and won by 6 thanks to my mental routine.
1. When preparing to play, visualize all of the holes. Also, visualize success and how you will handle the success while it is happening.
2. It is critical to have good mechanics that allow you to rip through impact when the pressure is on. Because of my mechanical break-through a couple weeks before, I was able to accelerate through impact and trust my swing.
3. Controlling your thoughts is the main key to finishing off a win. If you are in a position to win, your physical game is right where it needs to be. The only thing that can derail your physical game is lack of mental discipline and letting your thoughts dwell on results instead of your shot by shot process.
I know these lessons can help you take a couple bucks off your buddies and will one day help me win the Masters! I would love to hear how this story helped you play at a higher level.
Thanks for reading!