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Thursday, 5 May 2016

Golf is Ninety Percent Mental

I went out in 31 yesterday at my home course in Picton.  I was hitting it pretty well, but the difference was definitely the putter.  I had 11 putts for nine holes.  

I was playing with Steve, Spiros and Ken playing against their best ball and was something like eight up after nine.  Other than Spiros, who kept saying, "That's another birdie,"  the boys were trying not to talk about what was going on.

Sure enough, at the turn they asked me what my score was and I had to admit that I was aware of being five under.  There is nothing quite like being aware of a really good round to mess with your mind.  It was definitely starting to get in my kitchen, since I couldn't remember the last time I had putted as well, or been that far under after nine.  Two or three under and I would have been able to shrug it off as just a good start, but at five under it was hard not to think about my personal best at Picton which is 65.  You can try as hard as you like not to let this kind of success affect you, but it does.  

I determined that, since the putter was hot, I was just going to try to keep making birdies.  I wasn't going to let myself start putting both hands on the wheel.  After making a solid par on ten, which is the hardest hole on the course, I hit a good drive on eleven only to push my six iron into a bunker, leaving myself short-sided.  It was the worst place I could have missed it.  Instead of playing safe and settling for a lengthy putt for par, I tried to get cute, barely got the ball out of the bunker, then hit a rather feeble chip and missed the four footer for bogey.  That's how fast it can happen.

From then on the hole seemed to get smaller and my approach went from being a quest for more birdies to a struggle with Old Man Par.  I was determined that I wouldn't give him any more strokes back.  I am happy to say I managed to play the next seven holes in even par and posted a 69.  That was my first sub 70 round of the season. 

What I once again learned was that, for me at least, it is the putter that makes the difference in this game.  Yesterday I had 24 putts.  That is probably at least six better than my usual tally, though I don't usually keep track.  My approach on the greens was essentially the same as always, except that I felt, at least for the first nine, really comfortable over the ball and was definitely focussed on making the putt, rather than being concerned about missing it.  I consistently picked a spot on the front of the hole and tried to roll the ball over it, not even thinking about the break.  That's what seems to work best for me.

Once you become reasonably proficient, as Ken says, "This game is ninety percent mental.  The other ten percent is between your ears."