Develop your skills in order to trust your ability like Masters champion Patrick Reed
If there's one thing the average golfer can take away from Patrick Reed's Masters victory on Sunday, it's this: He had a game plan and he didn't waver from it.
Reed began the final round with a three-stroke advantage. He knew that he had to play well to come out on top, but he never forced things.
This isn't something you can just tell yourself to do and do it, 2013 PGA National Teacher of the Year Lou Guzzi told us. It's a skill acquired over time.
"The fundamentals of players like Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy -- along with their skill -- is off the charts good," Guzzi said. "That's something you gain over time and through experience."
This rings especially true for those of you who play in club matches, or higher levels of competition.
It's like the old adage, "if at first you don't succeed, try again."
"I can't teach a student to shoot a lower number, but I can tell you that you can if you continually work at it," Guzzi said. "I learned to finish rounds and tournaments by failing. The next time I got closer to the finish line and failed. Then 16 holes in and failed. Then I reached a point where I was on the 18th hole, still there and I finished. Once that happens, you're so tuned in and in a rhythm that when you once feared running out of holes, you suddenly don't want to run out of holes because you want to make more birdies. It's that much fun."
What you learn about yourself through experiences on the course, Guzzi said, is that you can execute under the gun. Instead of shying away from it, you embrace it.
Take Reed, for example, on Sunday at Augusta National. He made a solid bogey on the difficult 11th hole, but it opened the door a crack for Spieth and Fowler who were ready to pounce.
Rather than hanging his head and buckling, Reed pulled it together and made a great birdie on the 12th hole to immediately get the lost shot back.
Then on the par-5 15th -- reachable in two for everyone in the field -- Reed hit his tee shot in the left side of the fairway and was blocked by trees between his ball and the green. Instead of attempting the hero shot, he simply punched his ball down the fairway to set up a short third to the green.
He went on to make par and took the potential for a big number out of play.
"There's a story -- I can't remember who told it -- but it was about Ben Hogan when he won the Masters one year," Guzzi said. "On the 13th hole, Hogan was in the middle of the fairway. He could have reached the green in two, but instead he laid up, wedged the ball on the green and made the birdie putt. The tournament finishes and he wins. A player that was in the group behind Hogan that day asked him afterward, 'Mr. Hogan, why didn't you go for the green on 13? You could have gotten there no problem.'
"Hogan's answer was perfect and right to the point," Guzzi said, "he told the player, 'I didn't need a three.' That's how Reed approached his round on Sunday. He didn't hit shots he didn't need to hit. He didn't go out with that three-stroke lead trying to set scoring records. He was aware of where he needed to hit it. He got aggressive when he needed to and most of the time he managed his emotions."
In golf, having a positive attitude is a great asset to have, but even with that, you're not guaranteed anything score-wise.
If you want to truly get better, you need to work to build up your skillset and your scar tissue. It's the only way to make the uncomfortable, comfortable.