“It is not mere technical skill that makes a man a golfer, it is the golfing soul.
--English author P.G. Wodehouse (1881 to 1975).
This past week’s cold snap in KC had sent me back to looking for “The Secrets To Lower Scores” versus heading out to the range and course in an effort to find a dependable, repeatable swing when the pressure is on.
Golf is never easy for a higher handicapper like me, but there are days when I am playing with my buddies that I can put together a tidy round and post a I-Can’t-Believe-That-Was-Me score. For me, that is a score between 78 and 83. That’s the truth. Even last year I had two scores in the 70s. However, days like that are rare when it comes to official club events such as the Stanley Cup, the Club Championship and The Crew (our club’s member-member). Tournament pressure is something that I still believe that I can learn to handle better even at my age (70). Yes, a proper swing matters, but a working brain is also a necessity if you want to win a Big One.
I began my search for “The Secrets To Lower Scores” by looking for tips, hints, thoughts, lessons from living legends – men who have won multiple Majors. I decided to exclude the one-offs such as Jimmy Walker (2016 PGA), Lucas Glover (2009 U.S. Open), Michael Campbell (2005 U.S. Open), Ben Curtis (2003 British Open), Rich Beem (2002 PGA), Steve Elkington (1995 PGA), Hal Sutton (1984 PGA) and Tom Weiskopf (1973 British Open). I did so because I can’t help but think that there is a difference between finding The Zone once versus handling history-making heat two, three or more times. Am I wrong in seeking the advice of Ben Crenshaw (Masters winner 1984 and 1995) ahead of Tom Kite’s (1992 U.S. Open)?
Here is what my search turned up:
“You don’t put yourself in a position to lose. If you do that, you have a good shot of winning. That has been my philosophy through the years. You don’t win golf tournaments by hitting miraculous shots that you are not capable of hitting. You lose golf tournaments that way. Remember, most golfers self-destruct.” – Jack Nicklaus, 18 Majors.
“A driver is the key to the golf round – the key that starts your car, the key that opens your house.” – Lee Trevino, six Majors.
“I love rotten weather. The founders of the game accepted nature for what it gave or what it took away. Wind and rain are great challenges. They separate real golfers. Let the seas pound against the shore. Let the rains pour.” – Tom Watson, eight Majors.
On Putting: “The ball which arrives at the hole with the proper speed has an infinitely greater chance of falling in the hole from any entrance. Harvey Penick taught me the value of this method at an early age. This is what he meant by ‘giving luck a chance.’” – Ben Crenshaw, two Majors.
“Never try to squeeze extra yards out of the 8-iron through sand wedge. Instead, take one club more and swing easily. You'll get almost as much spin and a lot more control.” -- Nick Faldo, six Majors.
“You have to lose Majors to win Majors. But the ones you lose, it hurts. At the ’95 PGA at Riviera, I had a three-shot lead entering the final round and lost. I had close calls in ’96 at the U.S. Open and (British) Open Championship. Looking back, I wanted it too much. I put too much pressure on myself. It made me tense and that’s not how you play good golf. Sure, I’ve won four Majors, but it could have been six, seven or eight.” – Ernie Els, four Majors.
“I always figure that your mind should never go wrong. You should never ever make a mental mistake. You have plenty of time to decide what you’re going to do. Now if you’re Joe Montana coming down the field with a 300-pound lineman chasing you, you can make a mistake.” – Tiger Woods, 15 Majors.
“When you have a specific image in your mind and commit to it, you tighten your focus. It’s also an important part of handling pressure. You’re giving your mind something to do other than be nervous.” -- Martin Kaymer, two Majors.
“But, under pressure, I do use one simple swing thought: I pick a spot afoot in front of the ball and hit over it -- hard. That takes my mind off the outcome of the shot and keeps me in the process.” -- Rory McIlroy, four Majors.
“Everyone swings with different rhythm, but the important thing for good ball-striking is to stick with your rhythm. I have a pretty deliberate takeaway -- the club moves low and slow off the ball and doesn’t pick up much speed until my transition into the downswing. But with this unhurried tempo, the tendency under pressure is to get quicker and out of sync. To keep that from happening, focus on the beginning and the end of the swing. Start with a smooth takeaway and finish in balance.” – Collin Morikawa, two Majors.