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Preparing for a Big Shot? Use Phil’s Formula to Perform

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

There comes a moment in every round where we really need to hit a pressure filled shot. Watching the 103rd PGA Championship yesterday, Phil’s game was wavering after the wayward tee shot on the 13th hole. Over the next couple of challenging moments, he hit some average shots. With Brooks Koepka’s birdie on the 16th hole, Phil’s lead was gone.
Phil completed the Par 5 16th without a birdie. The success of the entire day now hinged on the next iron shot. The most difficult hole on the course was parred by Brooks. Phil had to match his score or even try to beat it. With his most committed swing of the day, Phil drew a straight line to the flag with his shot tracer. The pressure of the moment and the difficulty of that play could have easily caused him to guide the swing. When belief mattered most, Mickelson moved through it with confidence.
Within that crucial moment, what can we learn from Phil’s focus and commitment? Any expert instructor can teach positions in the golf swing. Being labeled a “coach” implies a little more. PGA Coaches don’t just teach their students the golf swing, they also coach them on how to use it. When preparing for one of those pressure filled shots, use Phil’s formula to perform.
  • Proper preparation starts with a powerful mindset. Dottie Pepper commented during the
    telecast about Phil meditating. Behind those sunglasses, Phil filters out the noise and focuses on the target. Creating self-belief comes from a having a relaxed mind. Practices like meditation or just simply calming your thought process is the first successful step to pulling off the play.
  • Select the club you can swing. One of the worst mistakes we can make in these situations is trying to hit half shots. This is a very important point. Changing the speed and length of your swing will create more stress in an already super stressful situation. Correct club selection can actually help remove anxiety from the shot.
  • When it comes time to hit the ball, use your routine. You have a routine for a reason. Sticking to that routine for hours during a round of golf is impossible. We all have moments when we stray from our process. For this shot make it your best routine of the day. Do that and you’ll be really ready.
  • Envision the shot as you walk into the ball. If you don’t see it, you cannot create it. You see great players do this on television all the time.
  • Now you’re ready. Once you’re in the address position and ready to go; swing it. You chose that club for a very specific reason, now follow through on that intent. Make a complete swing. Hold your finish until the ball lands near your target.
These specific keys will allow you to perform your best under the tensest of times. Watch the coverage today. Now that you’re aware of what it takes to perform like Phil on the 17 th tee, observe all the contenders. Personality plays a part in this process too. Follow your favorite golfer and watch their routine. Their process will no doubt contain these five points.
As a PGA Coach, here’s one more tip on this subject. Screen shot this article. Save it in the pictures on your phone. Then when you practice, you can use that picture as a checklist. Start to incorporate each of the five keys into your pre-shot routine. Build a successful process on the range. One you can use like Phil when you have to perform under pressure.

Keith Stewart is a 5-time award-winning PGA Professional with 25 years of experience in the golf industry. His network of players, coaches and insiders provide him with a unique perspective on the game. He's a writer on PGA.com and host of the ProShow on ESPN 920 AM Friday afternoons at 3:00pm EDT. Check out his PGA Coaching articles archived here or his conversations on air with this link to his website The ProShow.
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