This week's HP Byron Nelson Championship at TPC Las Colinas in Irving, Texas, certainly showed us what a roller coaster ride golf can be at times. As in life, golf has its highs and lows and that was clearly on display in the Lone Star State. The stage was set for the weekend rounds as the blustery cross winds kicked up and seemed to level off the field, making for some extremely difficult scoring conditions. It was a tournament that lacked the proverbial, "star power," (aside from Phil Mickelson who collapsed late with bogeys on his final two holes) but there was a lesson to be learned from the weekend's champion Jason Dufner.
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When working with my students I like to develop a game for them that plays to all of their strengths as an individual and as an athlete. The next step is to develop a method that allows those strengths to surface during times of pressure and stress on the golf course. There are so many outside factors around these professionals during their round that can force their mind to stray from the objective at hand. Whether it is a previous bad shot, bad break, bad bogey, wind, rain or whatever, there is always temptation for the mind to wander. In these circumstances where tension is high, your mind can put your body in a situation out of its normal golfing element which brings in a high probability for a swing flaw. It is in these times, that as a teacher I like to stress a pre-shot routine to return the player's mind to the current shot and situation.
Maybe one of the more famous pre-shot routines on display this weekend was that of Dufner's with his excessive club waggle. Before each shot Dufner employs the same strategy with the same club waggle. He has done this so many times over his career that it has become engrained in his muscle memory, so even when his mind loses focus and puts his body in an unfamiliar, "golf circumstance," the pre-shot routine will put his body back into a circumstance that his body will recognize. His muscle memory will now know it's time to employ his normal golf swing and hit a golf shot.
Regardless of what is happening around him, once that routine has started up, Dufner's mind is trained to instruct his body to make the golf swing that he has practiced hundreds of times a day for years. We saw last week with Kevin Na what can happen when you deviate from routine and put your mind and body in a situation that it is not accustomed to. Dufner's game is by no means flashy and isn't exactly the most entertaining to watch, but it is his devotion to routine that keeps him with steady, consistent results.
As viewers, we should all learn from Dufner. It becomes tedious at times and difficult to devote yourself to (trust me I know), but even when hitting balls during a practice session at the range, players should practice their pre-shot routine before each shot to train your mind and body to make the same swing even when circumstances become a bit dicey. A pre-shot routine could be as simple as starting behind the ball and walking into the set-up each time or as unique as Jason Dufner's club waggle. In some cases, a pre-shot routine is the same number of practice swings before hitting a shot. Whatever the routine may be, it needs to be done each time before each shot so when your mind inevitably strays, the pre-shot routine will surface the swing that is engrained in your muscle memory.
Work on your pre-shot routine regularly and soon enough you will be the one whose game is sure and steady while others waver and fall from the grace of a well-played golf round.
It isn't always flashy and highly entertaining, and sometimes even labeled as boring; but if it comes to success in the game of golf and two PGA Tour victories in three weeks, Jason Dufner will take boring all day long.