No matter what golfing level you play at, there will be times when you feel the pressure and a desire to perform more intensely than others. Times when putting in a good showing seems that little bit more important.
For a beginner this may be simply stepping onto a golf course rather than banging balls at the driving range. For the elite touring professional, the sensation might come in the US Open Championship as compared to a standard weekly tour event.
There are two obvious ways people deal with the pressure – they either thrive on it and excel, or they crumble like the last HobNob in the pack. There is a third way, however, and it’s the one I generally adhere to. I truly believe I’m going to thrive under pressure and I have an ostensibly positive outlook, but the results are mildly disappointing.
I displayed this effectively in the first round of the club championship yesterday. Each year it’s the event I really want to perform well in. I’ve been runner-up before but have never managed to get my name on the board.
I played a bounce game on Monday and was on good form. I cruised round in one-under-par and it seemed the easiest thing in the world. So I stood on the first tee yesterday feeling confident I was going to post a good score.
The problem was, despite my positive approach, the pressure and desire to perform were still there. On Monday, it didn’t matter if I had a good score but yesterday it did. As such, I tried infinitely harder than I had two days before. In fact, I tried so hard to get round under par, I forgot it’s necessary to play golf to do it. I gave it everything until the very last tap-in (after a missed two-footer) but could only muster a disappointing three-over. Thinking back over the round I can see my focus was skewed. I was desperate not to screw up so I never gave myself a chance to play well.
My performance was much like many of those we’ve seen in the first round of group games at the World Cup. There, talented teams with every necessary skill to produce great attacking football have failed to play to their potential because they’ve been too worried about losing. By trying so hard not to lose, many have put themselves in a position where they’re more likely to do so.
A quick comparison between my two games this week makes it all too clear why the final scores differed –
On Monday I arrived at the club five minutes before our time and strolled nonchalantly onto the tee without so much as a practice swing. Yesterday I was there 30 minutes early, I hit some balls in the net, had a putt and sat for a while on the bench outside the pro shop mulling over my tactics.
On Monday I pulled out a driver on the first tee and knocked it effortlessly down the fairway, just short of the green. Yesterday I played sensibly with an iron and left myself a far more difficult shot in.
On Monday I putted freely, trusted my knowledge of the greens and holed a few good ones. Yesterday I considered each putt carefully and dithered over the line. As a result I began to see borrows that weren’t there and had numerous near misses.
On Monday I played a couple of excellent pitches from just off the green to leave tap-ins for par. Yesterday I twice went with the philosophy that a bad putt is better than a bad chip, used the flat stick from off the putting surface and failed to get up and down.
So I need to try less hard in Friday’s second round. Hmm. I know what’ll happen. I’ll take a relaxed approach, carelessly fritter a few shots away and then kick myself for not trying harder.