A Lesson Learned: Optimizing Pressure Play

By Doug Weaver, PGA
Published on

Before we talk about what we can learn from this week's golf action, let's take a moment to remember two special people.

Mother's Day was this past Sunday and is a time for all golfers to call/remember their mothers. I was reminded of my mother's influence in my golf game. She allowed us to play in the yard with whiffle balls. We still broke two windows trying to cut the corner of the house. She dropped my friends and I off at the golf course and said "stay as long as you want". My sister and I played with her many times. My grandfather taught her and 4 sisters how to play in the 1940s when other men discouraged females to play. During my practice rounds on the PGA Tour she defended my bad shot by saying "he was practicing hitting to that spot". Thanks Mom.

Also, we remember Seve Ballesteros and honored him this past weekend. He was remembered at 3:08 pm Sunday with a moment of silence across three seperate tours. It was a fitting way to remember one of the game's greatest ambassadors.

My first interaction with his fiery passion was at the Ryder Cup in 1979. As a 19 year old spectator I stood close in the small crowds and observed a charismatic player similar to the freewheeling Phil Mickelson that aggressively played on narrow tree lined fairways and watched his ball fly into the trees with the unflinching belief he can still make birdie and win. He was aggressive and willing to accept any circumstances of his shot.

In 1989 I played a practice round with him at the New Orleans PGA Tour event. He was very generous and personable with his thoughts. Here I observed a swing controlled by the hands. These creative hands were made to be placed on the club. I can understand why he won 5 majors by observing the way he practiced his shortgame and the courage he exuded.

Seve Ballesteros is the Arnold Palmer of European Golf. He was the inspiration behind the resurgence of the Ryder Cup popularity because his charisma lead the team to victories that had been few and far between.

Jonathan Byrd and Lucas Glover had fun as friends and warriors this week. As a Clemson fan and fellow South Carolinian, I was rooting for both badly. I was going to be very happy and excited for one, heartbroken for the other. But it was good to see the playoff at the Wells Fargo come down to the two of them.

Jonathan Byrd, who lost in the playoff, played well this week, but had four crucial chips that did not get to within 10 feet of the pin. I believe he looked up. As I replayed the shots I saw his eyes following the shot. I teach my students when chipping to listen for the ball to land. This will keep you focused on the process, not the result. When under the pressure of leading the tournament we all get results oriented.

In Byrd's interview before the round he said he was focused on his process and will let the results take care of themselves. His clutch 12 footer on the 72nd hole to force the playoff was a great example of this.

Lucas Glover the winner looked really relaxed all day. In fact, the first intensity I noticed from him all day on Sunday was on the 72nd green after he made the 8 footer for par. He definitely did everything he could do to stay comfortable and carefree all day long. This falls in line with one of my golf maxims - Golf is a game of opposites: the harder you try the worse you do. Lucas, the 2009 US Open Champion looked like he did not care as he played Sunday. His body was supple and walk was slow to meandering. However, I know that he was giving it his all.

Everyone has their own way of staying relaxed and comfortable in pressure situations.

I recommend an excellent tool for you to understand yourself and how you act in competition, practice and casual play. Go to like Jonathan Byrd and Lucas Glover have and learn how you can manage your personality so that you maximize your golf game.

Many golfers are like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The practice range player is very different from the warrior on the golf course. This profile will help you understand who you are and how you can utilize and develop all your personality characteristics so that you will perform your best on the course in all situations.

There a four styles of personalities according to the workshop. Your profile will determine a plan for how you should optimize your performance.

The Dominant style is similar to Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Morgan Pressel. A Dominant player is aggressive with a sense of urgency, strong willed and a risk taker. Phil is a Dominant and also very social on camera and in public. He can relax his intense goal oriented, competitive, risk taker personality in order to be successful on the course. Greg Norman is so competitive and his aggressive nature cost him several majors.

The Conscientious Style is a Jonathan Byrd or Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus. All these players are careful, analytical and methodical. Jonathan said he was staying process oriented yet also, strategically relaxing more to balance out his exacting style.

The other two styles are Inspiration and Steadiness. Where do you or your loved ones fit in? When you utilize this tool you will be a more satisfied and more successful golfer. You will truly understand the Spirit of the Game of Golf.

One other point. There is a new book that has positively influenced many golfers in the last year. it is "Golf's Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia." This great read will entertain you and educate you to playing your best golf under pressure and show you how to enjoy golf more. The adventure will improve your golf game using flying an airplane, trout fishing and painting. The movie will be out in August with PGA tour players as the actors.

In other words, there are a a number of great resources that are out now, and are coming out, that can help you understand how to perform your best when the pressure becomes great. And that's a lesson we can all agree will be a huge benefit to our golf games.  

Doug Weaver is the PGA Director of Instruction at Palmetto Dunes Golf Academy in Hilton Head, South Carolina. He is often cited by various golf media as one of the top instructors in the state as well as having enjoyed a successful playing career including success on the PGA Tour.

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