Wow! Another playoff! What's that... like 137 this year! Actual I think it's 11, with 16 being the record for a season. Congratulations to Harrison Frazar for his first PGA TOUR victory! Well done!
Tournaments aren't really won on playoffs though... are they? I mean it's the incredible bunker shot, or the 32' putt made, or the "up and down" made from 25 yards during regulation rounds that force playoffs. Which also means, that tournaments aren't lost on playoffs either, but because of poor shots during regulation rounds.
When poor shots do happen during a round, rarely is it because the swing changed. Just think how hard you worked on trying to make even a little change. You probably spent days... weeks... months... even YEARS on incorporating that change into your game. No... the swing usually doesn't break down during a round, something changes mentally. Like the realization that you are in the lead, or the awareness of people watching you, or an image pops into your head of your ball slicing and ruining someone's BBQ! Ugh!!
In the match between Robert Karlsson and Harrison Frazar, they were very consistent with their pre-shot routines on every shot. Everything was very deliberate... with purpose... and focused (as in VERY focused!).
For example, on the 14th hole during regulation play, a train whistle could be heard in the background while Frazar was about to hit. During his pre-shot routine… obviously distracted by the train whistle...he stepped away. He regrouped, went through his routine again, and hit a great shot on a very difficult par 3. Had he NOT stepped away but instead proceeded to hit (how many times have we done that?), well... who knows what the outcome might have been.
So developing a good pre-shot routine for the golf course is instrumental for settling your nerves and keeping you focused on the shot at hand.
Here's what I suggest...
1.) VISUALIZE the shot. Before even choosing a club, take into consideration the target, distance, ball lie, wind, weather, obstacles, etc... and decide on the type of shot you want to hit. Only then should you choose the club. This is why pros leave their clubs in the bag until they've considered all the options.
2.) FEEL the swing you want to make during your practice swing and rate your practice swing on a scale of "1" to "10" where "1" is poor and "10" is awesome! Only, if you would rate your practice swing (think of it as a "rehearsal" of the swing you want to make) an "8," "9," or "10," would you then proceed to the next step. By the way, on the course you should limit your practice swings to two.
3.) SET UP to the ball now... focusing on fundamentals: grip, stance, posture, ball position, and alignment. What I call "controllables," because you have total "control" over these, meaning there is no excuse for sloppiness. And while you're at it, spend more time looking at the target and less time at the ball... much like a baseball pitcher staring at the catcher's mitt before throwing.
4.) LET IT GO! You've done everything to prepare yourself for success, now it's time to just trust it and let it go!
One final thought... just as important as it is practicing the mechanics of your game... it's just as important to practice your pre-shot routine. I recommend going through your entire pre-shot routine on at least every third shot during practice.
Ted Eleftheriou is a PGA member and the Director of Instruction at Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge located in Winter Garden, Florida. He works with people of all ages and abilities including LPGA, Futures, and Asian LPGA Tour players. Let him assist YOU with reaching YOUR golfing goals. Contact him at 407-905-2238 or email him at TEleftheriou@ocngolf.com.