Stick to your routine when the pressure is on
When Jon Rahm had a chance to win on the PGA Tour for the first time Sunday, he didn't sit back and play conservative golf.
Instead, the 22-year-old Spaniard went out and took the tournament by the throat with incredible play down the stretch, including two eagles and a birdie over his final six holes on his way to an impressive three-stroke triumph at Torrey Pines.
Jeff Martin, PGA Head Professional at Norton Country Club in Norton, Mass., said it wasn't hard to see what the difference was between Rahm and his competitors.
"I've played a couple of rounds out at the South Course," sai Martin, a three-time PGA Championship participant. "It's long and it was playing soft from some recent unseasonable wet weather. I was shocked at the amount of guys missing fairways. It didn't look like there was any wind at all. Rahm was not one of those guys. He was driving it long, hitting it straight and keeping it in the fairway all day."
Rahm grabbed a share of the lead after his first eagle of the day at the par-5 13th hole. He was on the green in two after a magnificent 4-iron approach left about 20 feet:
At the par-4 17th hole, Rahm took a one-shot lead after stuffing his second shot to within a few feet of the hole and jarring the birdie putt:
Finally, at the par-5 18th, Rahm closed out the tournament in style. On the back of the green in two shots, he drained a ridiculous 60-footer for eagle and the three-shot win:
"When you get into pressure situations, you need to fall back on your routine," Martin said. "Don't change it other than to take a little more time if you need to. Whatever club you decide to hit, commit to it. Committing to a club is just as important as hitting the right one. It's hard to keep the nerves under control in those pressure situations. You need to get yourself calm. It could be as easy as taking a calming breath before you step into your shot. Rely on your fundamentals -- aim and ball position -- to hit great shots under pressure."
Martin said that a "go to shot" is also helpful in those tense situations.
What worked for Rahm on Sunday was his little fade.
"Everyone has a go to shot under the gun and that little fade was his," Martin said. "Aim left, bash it there and let it move back to the right. I was impressed mostly on 17. He had the pin way back on the shelf. It's easy to spin it off from there. He took one more club to take the spin off -- that's hard under the gun. He hit it the perfect distance and gave himself an opportunity for birdie and then made the putt."
Martin was also a fan of what he saw from Rahm on 18.
"He smashed that second shot with a 5-wood to the back of the green," Martin said. "In that situation -- going for it in two on par 5s -- you need to know where you don't want to be. On that hole, you can't be short because of the water. Long is fine, even if you're in the back bunker. He hit a great shot and then got lucky with the long birdie."
If you're faced with a pressure situation, no matter the circumstances, make it a point to stick to your routine. While everything might be speeding up around you, it's OK to slow it all down, control what you can control, to stick to what got you there.