I had a unique opportunity while at this past week's Greenbrier Classic. For the third roud, I was an honorary observer and allowed to walk inside the ropes with the pairing of Trevor Immelmann and Michael Leitzig, both in second place going into the round.
Immelmann opened the event with a terrific round of 64 then followed with a 70 on Friday. As a former Masters Champion, he clearly had the most experience at the top of the leader board for Saturday and many people expected him to do well over the weekend - even walk away with the win. I was excited to watch up close and view how he would play; both as a fan of golf and to see what I could learn from this experience and share with amateur golfers.
He had a few birdie opportunities early that didn’t drop but after making birdie on the 12th, he was within 2 shots of the lead with plenty of holes left. Then on 13 he hit an iron fat resulting in a double bogey. He bogeyed 14,15, 16 and 18 and finished with a 73.
So what did I learn? How is it that the same person can dominate a golf course, controlling the ball and trajectory and shoot 64 one day and then two days later come out and shoot 9 shots higher. Same thing with Anthony Kim, he had 8 birdies on Saturday and no birdies on Sunday, only one of two players on Sunday without a birdie.
I learned two things. Or reaffirmed two items that we all need to remember a little more.
1.) Golf is a finicky and fragile game. The only guarantee is that there are no guarantees.
2.) You can only control the next shot. Do all you can to prepare for that shot, let the past ones go.
I was so impressed with Trevor Immelman; his talent, ball striking and the consistency of his routine. He is very deliberate in his preparation for each shot, which helps him perform at his best. And even when the results aren't what he had hoped for, he doesn't dwell on it, he moves on to the next shot.
If it’s that difficult for one of the best players in the world to repeat a round what can amateur players do to help build consistency in their game? What i noticed from Immelman and others was the consistency of their pre-shot routine and their use of visualization. They commit to their shots and stay in the present. Even after the bogeys Immelman never showed his frustration or emotions. This game is an emotional roller coaster so you must find a way to manage your emotions and not let the highs or lows get the best of you. A routine is a must. It’s like having a golf ball to play golf, you gotta have one to play. The routine allows you to perform your best under pressure and helps keep your emotions in check.
Scott Stallings this years winner bogeyed 17 but bounced back and birdied 18 twice to win in a playoff. He could have let the bogey on 17 pull him down but he didn’t. The only shot you have is the one in front you at that moment. He let go of the past and focused on the shot at hand.
In the end this years course at the Greenbrier played much harder than last year due to reseeding all the greens so they were faster and firmer plus narrowing the fairways and lengthening many of the holes. It was one by a 26 year old rookie who showed great joy and enthusiasm for the game. Traits that we should all take with us to the first tee every time we go out and play. If you can’t control the outcome of this fragile game then at least control how you approach each shot.