One of the things we hear from beginning or inexperienced golfers is that they sometimes feel "intimidated" when playing with really good golfers, and it keeps them from enjoying themselves on the course.
But you know what? Unless your name is Rory McIlroy, there's always going to be someone out there better than you. And even then, Rory was a beginner golfer himself, at one point. So instead of treating that situation as a negative, our PGA Professional believes you can not only enjoy the experience when paired with a better player, but grow your own game in the process.
PEER PRESSURE: The 10 most intimidating golfers in PGA Tour history
Ted Eleftheriou is Director of Golf Program Development for the PGA of America, based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
"Throughout my golfing career, I have had the privilege of playing with some amazing golfers, golfers who could beat me any day of the week,' Eleftheriou said. "However, rather than being discouraged or intimidated by these individuals, I looked forward to each encounter as an opportunity to learn from them."
Here are four things you can learn from being paired with better golfers, in Eleftheriou's words:
1. Observe what it is that great players do on the course.
"The first thing I learned from playing with better golfers is that they all have a specific pre-shot routine that they perform prior to every shot … regardless if it’s a three-foot putt or a tee shot with the driver. Their routine typically consists of club selection, followed by getting behind the ball for alignment. Then they’ll make a purposeful practice swing (or stroke) or two in effort of trying to 'feel' the swing needed for the shot they plan on performing. Next, they step up to the ball and look at the target at least once or twice to confirm alignment and visualize the target. Finally, without further delay, they’ll perform the actual shot.
PGA PROFESSIONALS: Find an instructor near you
"Most amateurs, on the other hand, have no consistent pre-shot routine and end up either rushing through their shot or go to the opposite extreme of hanging over the ball forever. Neither is effective for increasing the chances of hitting a good shot."
2. Better players have fun, but focus on their own games
"The best players have fun playing golf and like to socialize like most golfers do. However, when it’s time to make their shot, they enter into their own private world. They absorb themselves in their pre-shot ritual and do their best to lock out distractions.
"You should also focus on your own game, not what others may be thinking of you. You do this by staying in the present with every shot. As the saying goes, 'The past has already happened and the future hasn’t happened yet, so all you can control is the now.' Keep your mental imagery and self-talk positive and stay 'in the now.' "
3. Don’t change your swing on the golf course
"Observe what better players do on the golf course and take mental or written notes. But don’t try to change your swing, stroke or game while on the course. That’s a sure recipe for disaster. Work on what you observed on the practice facility and only when you experience moderate success should you try to incorporate it into your game on the golf course.
LESSON LEARNED: Don't let a tough hole mess with your mind
"Occasionally, better players may offer you advice, and you should thank them for it. But let them know that you’ll practice their suggestions next time you visit the practice facility, as opposed to during your round of golf."
4. To handle intimidation, commit to only one swing thought.
"Intimidation: We’ve all experienced it. Playing with a better player intimidates us, which often leads to poor performance. To ease the intimidation, incorporate a pre-shot routine, stay 'in the now,' don’t change your swing on the course and allow yourself only one swing thought. And I’m not talking about, 'Oh God, please let me make contact without looking like a fool in front of everyone!'
NEW TO THE GAME: More tips on handling intimidation
"You may want to consider something more like a personal pep talk: Like 'Complete the finish' or 'Good tempo' or 'Light grip pressure.' Something that’s produced positive results for you in the past."
Eleftheriou finished with this piece of encouragement: "Learn from better players and one day soon, you’ll be the player leading others to better golf."
With a new year just a few weeks away, it's time to look ahead to some storylines we'll be following in 2015.
Here are five that are on the top of my mind:
1. Who will be the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup captain?
We think this question will be the first we have answered out of the five. Tom Watson, the 2014 U.S. Captain, was appointed on December 13, 2012. The PGA of America has said it will not announce its new captain before the new year.
Here's what we know based on some tweets/leaks after the first meeting of the 11-member Ryder Cup Task Force: Fred Couples is the early favorite.
Couples confirmed to Golf.com last week that he has been contacted by the Task Force. It seems to be more "a call" than "the official 'will you be our captain' call."
Couples has been the winning captain of the last three U.S. Presidents Cup teams.
2. Can Rory McIlroy complete the career grand slam at the Masters?
It's hard to believe, but McIlroy -- at 25 years old -- could become the second youngest player to win a career grand slam if he's victorious this April at the Masters. Tiger Woods is the youngest. He turned the trick at age 24.
It would also be McIlroy's third consecutive major championship win. The last player to win three straight majors was Woods in 2000 (Woods would make it four straight with a win at the 2001 Masters to complete "The Tiger-Slam").
To add a little more perspective, only five players in history have achieved the modern-day career grand slam (Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship). Here is the list, along with the player's respective age at the tournament in which he accomplished the feat:
- Gene Sarazen, age 33, at the 1935 Masters
- Ben Hogan, age 40, at the 1953 British Open
- Gary Player, age 29, at the 1965 U.S. Open
- Jack Nicklaus, age 26, at the 1966 British Open
- Tiger Woods, age 24, at the 2000 British Open
McIlroy's best finish in the Masters was a T8 in 2014. He had a four-shot, 54-hole lead in the 2011 Masters before fading to a T15 with a final-round 80. He famously bounced back at the very next major -- the U.S. Open -- with a commanding eight-shot romp.
3. Will Rickie Fowler or Henrik Stenson (or both) win a major?
Let's start out with Rickie Fowler. Considering how often this guy is in contention, it's preposterous that he has just one PGA Tour victory to his name (the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship).
So why is it that a one-time PGA Tour winner deserves to be in the "will he win a major?" discussion for 2015? Easy. Look no further than his 2014 major record:
- T5 in the Masters
- T2 in the U.S. Open
- T2 in the British Open
- T3 in the PGA Championship
That's an incredible major record... but, it also makes Fowler the only player in the game's history to finish among the top 5 in all four majors during a single season without a win.
And now, the case for Henrik Stenson.
The Swede -- currently ranked No. 2 in the world -- has nine top-10 finishes in the majors and a game that travels exceptionally well. He's won four times on the PGA Tour and nine times on the European Tour (which isn't limited to Europe despite its name).
In 2013, Stenson became the first player to win the FedExCup and the Race to Dubai (the European Tour's "FedExCup" equivalent) in the same season. He has also won a World Golf Championships event (the 2007 Accenture Match Play), the 2009 Players Championship and two FedExCup playoffs events (2013 Deutsche Bank Championship and Tour Championship).
The only thing left for Stenson is a major.
4. Can Jordan Spieth establish himself as a closer?
It's hard to believe there's been any kind of a knock on this 21-year-old stud, but that's the life of a prodigy.
Spieth, who went from no status at all at the start of 2013 to full status and rookie of the year by the end of that season, has one win on the PGA Tour. That came at the 2013 John Deere Classic.
He also has five runner-up finishes in the last two years, including the 2014 Masters where he had a legitimate chance to become the tournament's youngest winner. A 74 in the final round of the Players Championship this year dropped Spieth to a disappointing T4 and there are a handful of other events where weekend rounds in the mid-70s cost him.
However, if recent history is any indication, it looks as though Spieth has worked out some kinks, and that could be scary for his fellow competitors.
At the end of November, Spieth won the Australian Open by six shots, thanks largely to an incredible final-round 63.
He followed that up by crushing the field a week later in the exclusive Hero World Challenge at Isleworth in Windermere, Fla., by 10 shots (Stenson was the runner up).
That's some great closing mojo heading into 2015.
5. How will Tiger Woods bounce back from an injury-plagued 2014?
In 2014, Woods was limited to just seven starts on the PGA Tour due to back/neck problems that required surgery.
It led to the only season of his career without a top-10 finish.
So, how will Woods come back in 2015?
Because of his unfortunate history with injuries, we do have a sample.
Limited to six PGA Tour starts in 2008 due to knee surgery that ended his season after a win at the 2008 U.S. Open, Woods made 17 starts in 2009, winning six times and finishing runner-up three times (By the way, he won four times in six starts in '08 and finished in the top 10 all six times).
Another knee injury limited Woods to just nine PGA Tour events in 2011. The following season, he registered three wins, a runner up and two third-place showings in 19 starts. He was even better in 2013 with five wins and a runner-up finish in 16 starts.
Woods will be 39 years old when the calendar flips to 2015. Will age, wear and tear show that it's taken its toll? Or, can we anticipate yet another strong return to form by the 14-time major winner?
I, for one, look forward to seeing what's in store.
Two-time major champ Mark O'Meara teamed up with his son, Shaun.
In Sunday's final round, Shaun hit a shot he'll never forget... and maybe only because it was caught on camera. Check it out:
That ace, which no one knew was an ace except for the announcers before the players arrived at the green, was the first of Shaun's life. It was a 7-iron from 174 yards at the par-3 fourth hole.
You can't complain about a hole-in-one, but it must stink when you don't see it go in the hole. Lucky for Shaun, even though he didn't see it drop, he can replay the video for the rest of his life.
The O'Mearas finished fifth in the two-day event.
Only on Twitter can something as obscure as dumping freezing water on somebody's head become a worldwide trend. So it should come as no surprise that two of the top three most retweeted, favorited and responded to tweets from PGA.com would involve this trend.
But what else did our followers enjoy seeing? There's a great .GIF, a selfie, a couple of funny photos and, oh yeah, some news. So pretty much it's what you would want on your Twitter feed.
So take a look at the full list of our top-10 most engaging posts, and hop over to our Twitter page to see what else has got us talking.
10. Ryder Cup Bromance
Michael Jordan was ready to celebrate a potential Ryder Cup win by his friend Keegan Bradley, and the rest of Team USA.
— PGA.COM (@PGA_com) September 27, 2014
9. Something likes the rain
The rain at the PGA Championship created headaches and disappointment for a lot of people. But these ducks didn't seem to mind the wet conditions.
— PGA.COM (@PGA_com) August 10, 2014
8. That doesn't look good
To say that there was a lot of rain at Valhalla was an understatement. This photo just goes to show how much water the course took on.
— PGA.COM (@PGA_com) August 10, 2014
7. Run, Sergio, run
While the ducks seemed to be really enjoying the rain, Sergio Garcia was firmly in the camp that preferred the course not to get a mid-round soaking.
— PGA.COM (@PGA_com) August 10, 2014
6. Team USA
Michael Jordan wasn't the only one who was supporting the Americans.
— PGA.COM (@PGA_com) September 23, 2014
5. Rory wins the PGA Championship
Rory McIlroy's dominance on the golf course translated over into the world of social media, especially after he won the PGA Championship for his second major in a row.
— PGA.COM (@PGA_com) August 11, 2014
4. Baba Booey
At the PGA Championship, we got as many golfers as we could to take a selfie. This one of Keegan Bradley was the most popular on Twitter.
— PGA.COM (@PGA_com) August 5, 2014
3. The team that does the ice bucket challenge together...
This summer's biggest viral trend makes its first appearance on the list. Seven members of Team USA were at The Barclays, and they decided to do the ice bucket challenge together.
— PGA.COM (@PGA_com) August 20, 2014
2. The 3-foot putt that's no gimme
This golfer put a new twist on the short game, and created waves on social media.
— PGA.COM (@PGA_com) October 23, 2014
1. Former President Bush listens to Rory
It definitely helps when Rory McIlroy retweets you -- such as what happened with this one.
— PGA.COM (@PGA_com) August 20, 2014
If you're a golf junkie like me, you probably fall under the category of "the golfer who has everything."
We're tough to buy for. It can be frustrating and downright annoying. Luckily, there are so many cool things out there now -- golf accessories, in particular -- that will even golfers like me delighted to receive on Christmas morning.
Here are three items that even "the golfer who has everything" would love this holiday season.
1. Seamus Golf and CRU Golf headcovers.
One of the easiest ways to distinguish your bag from others is with the headcovers you choose to put on your driver, fairway woods and hybrids. Who wants that stock company headcover everyone else has? Not me.
Seamus Golf makes beautiful tartan headcovers that should bring you instant good karma from the Golf Gods because having these in your bag is like tipping your cap to Scotland, the birthplace of golf. There are so many fun patterns that will give your bag color, so mix it up -- don't get all of the same patterns. Plus, you can even have a leather label added to the headcover with your initials or a logo. Cost: $45 and up per cover. www.seamusgolf.com.
CRU Golf is another great option. Its headcovers come in a variety of leather designs and are 100 percent customizable and made in the USA. The headcovers feature a moisture wicking interior that ensures proper functionality in dry or wet conditions. You can choose the colors you'd like to use, as well as the pattern and personalization. Cost: $36.99 and up per cover. www.crugolf.com.
2. The Players Towel.
The Players Towel is the ultimate golf towel for the golfer who otherwise has everything. This towel alone will make the favorite golfer on your shopping list feel like a touring professional. Players Towel is the best towel I've seen for golfers. Its unique weave pattern holds more than 300 times its weight in water, which makes it effective at cleaning ridges and retaining moisture. And, my favorite part? The personalization the company offers on it's towels. You can either pick from a library of logos, have your own embroidered on there, or even have your name embroidered on the towel. There are a variety of color options for both the towel and the stitching. Cost: Starting at $24.99. www.playerstowel.com.
3. CarveOn Custom Leather Scorecard Holder.
Again, for the golfer who has everything, it's all about finding that special something that they don't have... and maybe didn't even know existed. That's where a company based in Dublin, Ireland comes from with its offerings of custom leather scorecard holders and yardage book covers. Let's face it, not everyone needs a yardage book cover. However, any golfer could use a scorecard holder that will keep your scorecard nice and neat and also store that short pencil so it does poke through your pants pocket. CarveOn is the best out there... so good, in fact, that world No. 1 Rory McIlroy keeps a CarveOn yardage book cover in his back pocket. Once again, the customization is what makes this item so special. You can have a logo, your name, or virtually anything else emblazoned on the vegetable tanned Tuscan leather. Cost: Starting at $74.75. www.carveon.com.
PGA of America Championships
Benton Harbor, Mich.
Sahalee Country Club
Baltusrol Golf Club
Hazeltine National Golf Club