Be carefree -- not careless -- when playing from behind in a tournament or match

By T.J. Auclair
Published on
Be carefree -- not careless -- when playing from behind in a tournament or match

For the second time in as many tries, Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas came from behind to win the RBC Canadian Open on Sunday at Glen Abbey in Ontario.

In 2016, Vegas overcame a 5-stroke deficit on the final day to win. On Sunday, he began the final round trailing Charley Hoffman by three strokes, before defeating Hoffman on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.

Whether you're on the PGA Tour, or playing in a club championship, or even a much against friends, there's something that can be learned from Vegas and his "playing from behind" efforts.

We chatted with PGA Professional Jeff Martin from Norton Country Club in Norton, Mass., for a few tips on what you should do when you find yourself trailing late in a tournament or even a friendly match.

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"Playing from behind isn't easy," Martin said. "But, when you have a lead, there's a tendency to be more conservative. In that sense, playing from behind might be a little easier. There's less pressure and you can kind of play off of what the leader is doing. If he or she makes a mistake, you can be more aggressive and do some pin-hunting."

And that, folks, is the main takeaway: "There's no flag on the course that's out of bounds for you," Martin said.

Often times when playing from behind, a player is in a situation where they need to make something happen. That's the mindset Vegas used to fire a final-round, 7-under 65 -- the lowest round of the week.

"When you're coming from behind, you want to be aggressive and put some pressure on," Martin said. "You've got nothing to lose. It's harder to play with the lead, which made Tiger Woods so amazing. He's the best front runner we've ever seen in our time. The converse is, you never saw him come from behind much. He was one of those rare samples of a player who was considerably more comfortable playing with a lead."

When a player is trailing, Martin says that rather than "pressing" you should play with a carefree attitude.

"Now don't confuse that with careless," he said. "You should just feel more free and less tense with your swing."

What Vegas also had going in his favor on Sunday was the belief that he could come from behind and win since he had already turned the trick one year before.

Good memories, no doubt, will feed confidence.

"I think for sure there's courses where you show up and say, 'I'm going to go get it today,'" Martin said. "That's how it is at certain courses. That plays a big factor in it too. Vegas has won there before and it becomes easier to get it done. The task just doesn't seem as tall."