"I think a man may be a truly great golfer and not be a great tournament golfer; and I do not think that the customary implication, that a great golfer who fails to shine at formal competition lacks courage, is justified. Matters of physique and mere physical stamina have a profound effect, as do also personal inclination and taste. Then there is that curious and little understood factor of temperament, which is so convenient an explanation either of the successful tournamenteer or the unsuccessful one.
In any event, I maintain that golf and tournament golf are two different things; and it may be that I can speak with a little show of authority from acutely personal experience, since for a number of years I was regarded as a great golfer , and most certainly as not a great tournament golfer. I had a remarkably good opportunity to study the difference, which was increasingly heavy upon me in those years while I was competing in eleven major championships, never winning one. A great golfer--but he can't win championships. That was what they said; kindly, but with a sort of conviction."
I think this is important information for those who know they can play decent golf, but struggle in competition. Perhaps there is hope; a way to improve your competitive play. It is not that you lack courage, or confidence, necessarily. In fact, Bobby Jones always felt that courage was not an attribute necessary to the champion golfer. Great golf isn't about courage. He goes on to write:
"Now, I did not lack confidence, in my early championship tournaments. I was very young and brainless; I didn't know enough to fear the competition or to worry about it. And even then tournament golf was different. Especially the big tournaments. There was something about it; something that seemed to key me up, not unpleasurably. I began to notice that I seemed to play better when nervous. This is true today. The most unpropitious symptom I can experience before an important round, of match or medal play, is absence of nervousness. It is a rare thing for me to be able to manage even the restricted tournament breakfast, the morning on which the big show starts."
So, if tournament golf makes you nervous, that's a good thing. Nervousness is good. We need to embrace it and see it as something other than fear, or lack of courage. All top golfers are nervous before an important round. In my next article I'll go into some detail about how the Master prepared for tournaments. I think you'll find it interesting.