I got stuck in a place without a television Sunday, so I didn’t see the end of The Open Championship, but I really feel for Adam Scott. To be so close to your first major . . . or any win, and have your nerves fail you is frustrating and disappointing. But that’s one of the things that make golf a most fascinating game to play. You never get so good, so trained, that all those little “demons” in your head can’t mess it up.
It happens to all of us, at every skill level. We never quite get that driving range swing to the course with complete authority. On the range, it’s only about the swing and the ball. No penalty for a bad shot, or reward for a good one. But on the course, we introduce all kinds of new outside influences. Trouble catches our eye and attention and we begin thinking what “not” to do, instead of only focusing on what “to” do like on the range. Every swing is influenced by the one before, what your opponent and/or partner just did, your history on that particular hole or shot . . . the list of interference factors is practically endless.
And then you can add to that our own self-imposed penalties for failure. Losing the hole means disappointment and possibly financial loss. Hitting a bad shot means muffled chuckles from your buddies, or worse. There’s no telling how many thoughts go swirling around in your head, whether conscious or not.
My father used to tell this story about pressure. A guy decided to be a circus tight wire act. So he strung a wire across his backyard a foot off the ground. He practiced day and night, first just standing on the wire, then walking. He advanced to skipping, turning flips. After a few years there wasn’t anything he couldn’t on that wire, so he went to the circus an applied for a job. The boss sent him up on the platform to show his stuff, and when he got there . . . and looked down . . . he couldn’t take the first step out onto the wire. That, my boy, he’d say . . . is pressure.
The point of this is that you just have to be there and be there often to learn to handle it. And sometimes you’ll fall victim anyway. Every great that ever was had a collapse sometime in their career. Most more than one.
Learning the swing and the shots is just one part of this fascinating, confounding game we love. The other part is learning how to silence all the inner demons that get in the way of performing our best.
I’d like to ask all of you to chime in with your own stories about pressure and your favorite ways to deal with it, OK?
Sound off, guys (and ladies, if we have any here).