If you were following The Masters last month, as any self-respecting golf fan would, you will have seen Bubba Watson claim his second Green Jacket. He joins an illustrious group of only 17 golfers to have won multiple times at Augusta.
What struck us however, was the fine line between winning and losing on the big stage. Is Jordan Spieth not as good a golfer compared to Bubba? Or was it all in the mind? It appeared that the moment got too much for Jordan having been so cool for 3 days.
Jack Nicklaus famously once said that, ‘Golf is 80% mental, 10% ability and 10% luck’. So how important is the psychological side of the game in helping players win those big moments and consistently?
The impact of seeing your name on a leaderboard is a well written about phenomenon. Often people with little pressure on them gallop through the early rounds. With more to lose and the eyes of the world on you, less experienced players can seize up under the spotlight. There aren’t massive margins between the skill level of these guys at the top of the game, it’s about being able to deliver them when it counts. The great winners of the past, such as Tiger, are able focus on the ‘process’ rather than the end goal of winning, keeping your focus, to use a well-worn cliché, on one shot at a time. Easier said than done.
Let’s focus on Tiger for a second. Here is a stat to mull over, the greatest champion ever, Sam Snead, had a 90% fail rate, Jack Nicklaus 84% and Tiger around 73%. There can’t be any other sport where the greatest players DON’T win as often as in golf. The mental resilience and sheer motivation of these great players is off the chart and is what separates the winners and losers. Having talent is less than half the battle.
At the most basic level, as amateurs we underestimate the focus and concentration, firstly of 72 holes but also having to hole out every putt, day in day out!
We aren’t suggesting everyone books the next available appointment with their local sports psychologist. But consider this the next time you tee it up in a club tournament, if golf is played 80% in the mind, perhaps you don’t need hours on the range to win.