Like Hoffman, focus on the process
How did Charley Hoffman finally shake off his Sunday demons and win at TPC San Antonio? PGA Professional Rodd Slater said Hoffman's short game was nothing short of sensational, and that's because he stayed focused on the process of making shots instead of worrying about trying to control the result. And in staying in a positive frame of mind, Hoffman earned the Valero Texas Open victory.
It's something amateurs can use as well, particularly when facing a pressure situation.
Slater, PGA Professional at Two Rivers Golf Course in Dakota Dunes, S.D., credits Hoffman's short-game coach, fellow PGA Professional James Sieckmann, for giving Hoffman the confidence to go out and execute like he did Sunday. Hoffman was able to make several clutch par saves -- and then bury a 10-foot putt on the final hole for an up-and-down birdie to win by one shot over Patrick Reed.
Sieckmann, Director of Instruction at Shadow Ridge Country Club in Omaha, Neb., is a huge proponent of "the process," or the steps you go through to pick a strategy and hit a great shot. Here's a video demonstration of how the eight-time Section Teacher of the Year describes it.
When Hoffman was standing over his putt at 18 Sunday, Slater believes his total focus was on his pre-shot routine and execution -- the process -- not on the result.
"Most good putters are solely focused on the ball and not so much whether they're going to make it or miss it," Slater said. "Their minds don't jump to the result during the course of their putt. Their mind is solely on the process of rolling the ball on the line to a specific distance."
"Charley made several great putts -- a par save at 17 and that birdie putt at 18. I'm guessing his mind probably wasn't on the circumstances of the putt -- 'If I make this, I win or if I miss this, I lose.' It was more on, 'This is what I need to do for the ball to go in.' Whatever key he uses -- whether it's thinking about the stroke or the ball -- that was working. His mind was focused on the positives, not on all of the other things that can interfere with the process."
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It's easy to get caught up in thinking about your score, the last shot you made and other distractions on the course. There's a lot of downtime during a round of golf -- and the mind easily wanders. But when it's time to line up for your next shot, Slater said, remove all those thoughts and focus on the process.
"You cannot simply hope to make putts," Slater said. "You have to roll the ball on a line a certain distance. If your mind goes to the hole during the stroke, especially on breaking putts, you'll tend to miss more often than not. Or if you mind jumps to the 'I hope I don't miss this' thought, you're surely going to miss it. It's unfortunate, but when faced with a pressure situation, that's how most amateurs react. Their mind goes to the result before they're done with the process of executing the putt."
The first PGA Teacher of the Year and legendary instructor Manuel de la Torre had a great analogy for thinking positively.
"How de la Torre explained it, if I go to the grocery store to buy eggs, I don't come out of the store trying not to buy a loaf of bread. I buy eggs," Slater said. "If I want to make a right turn, I don't try not to turn left. In golf, you have to have a positive direction as to what you want to do. And whatever that was for Charley, he stuck to that throughout the day, so his mind wasn't on trying to winning the tournament or hoping he didn't lose it. He did all the things he needed to do to execute with a positive mental direction."
That's especially critical for Hoffman, who had started to earn a reputation for not being able to seal the deal on the tournament's final day. Slater said Sunday's win just shows how committed Hoffman is to removing that stigma.
"It just goes to the competitive edge that great players have, and the courage they have to overcome adversity and perhaps even some fear from previous failures," Slater said. "He showed so much heart the way he made those putts coming down the stretch to secure the victory. He overcame much more than the field by winning.
"He knew what he needed to do and he did it. He executed those shots because he had an excellent positive frame of mind."
By staying positive and focusing on the process, the results will come.