There is a popular adage in golf, and in many other sports, that the game is “90% mental.” That what separates elite performers from the also-rans is having a strong determination, grit, confidence and other mental game qualities. When you witness elite performers under extreme pressure it can be easy to believe this assertion, and as a mental game coach, I should probably let you believe it. But answer me this:
If the mind was that important to the game, wouldn’t the Dalai Lama be an incredible golfer?
He’s actually quite bad. There’s no doubt the mental game is important, but it isn’t 90% of the game.
Besides if golf is 90% mental and 10% physical, how can we explain the following?
- Charles Howell came to the par 5, 72nd hole of the 2005 Buick Invitational needing an eagle to get into a playoff with Tiger Woods. From 90 yards, his third shot lands in the hole and bounces backward into the water. He makes bogey and looses by three.
- On the 5th hole in the final round of the 1998 US Open, Lee Janzen was unable to find his wayward tee shot within the allotted five minutes. Walking back to the tee his caddy yelled for him to come back. His ball had dropped out of a tree. It saved him 2 shots and he won by 1 shot over Payne Stewart.
Whether it’s a gust from the gods, a freak bounce or the happenstance that either goes your way or not, in golf once the ball leaves the clubface you no longer control were it stops.
Control what you can, accept what you can’t
- Jack Nicklaus loved playing in bad weather because he knew half the field had already given up.
- Sergio Garcia had to wait 10 minutes on the 72nd hole of the 2007 British Open. He bogeyed the hole, lost in a playoff and was quick to blame losing on his long wait.
I’m not suggesting it’s easy waiting to hit or playing in extreme weather, but no matter what the circumstance, how you handle what happens on the course is up to you. Control what you can, accept what you can’t. It’s the only way to maintain sanity playing a game this unpredictable.