The Transitions Championship has just concluded with Luke Donald sinking a 6 foot putt for the playoff win and world number one ranking (again). In the playoff were three other players, one with an impressive pedigree and the other two not so much. There was someone missing though.
The Big Easy wasn’t so “Easy” with a 4 foot putt on the 18th to get into the playoff. He missed the putt. As NBC gave television viewers a close up of his putter head through the strike, most could see deceleration or an “choppy” stroke. When asked by the reporter after the round about his confidence over the putt, he gave an un-confident answer. He said he was, but it didn’t seem so. (Poor question aside-I believe)
Confidence on the greens can make all the difference. Confidence lagging the ball gives you a 2 foot putt instead of a 4 foot putt. I am sure the amateurs, like myself, do not have a very good percentage for 4 foot putts as compared to 2 foot putts.
Ernie Els is a champion. He has won may times on tour with a couple majors. He knows how to putt. But, confidence under pressure putts can be the difference between not making the cut, $300,000 or having to pay up on a $30 Nassau..
Mentally, when we are placed in a pressure situation on the putting green, our muscles tense, grip tightens and we think about the result. As a result, we either leave the putt short or completely mishit the putt. We do not stay in the moment and concentrate on the process of the putt. What is the answer? Not sure. I am not a PGA professional. I can tell you, mentally, what the answer isn’t.
Conviction. (Can you make the connection here?) Rarely, when we are placed in situations with extreme pressure, do we feel as though we have been there before. In reality, we have. Many times. For example, as a baseball player, I have been in 3-2 count, close game, two out and runners on 2nd and 3rd as a pitcher, many times. I’ve encountered this scenario in the first inning, fifth inning and ninth inning. What’s the difference? Nothing really. The scenario, itself has not changed. The pressure has, though. Because it’s the ninth inning, does that make me any less sure of what I am trying to do than the first inning?
It shouldn’t, but it does. Confidence and conviction to the process are replaced with results oriented thoughts. Muscles tighten, focus is not where it should be and therefore, the end result (that bad one you were dreading) is realized.
One of my pitching coaches once told me that I’d rather you be 100% committed to the wrong pitch than be 50% committed to the right one. I think that’s where we can start if we want to build confidence in any situation-especially on the greens. Pace and line. Commit to it.
Have a plan. Stick to the plan. Execute the plan. It might be the wrong plan but you’d be surprised how much conviction plays a role in results.
Scott Kapla, Mike Fay Golf Staff Writer