Throwing in the towel not the answer but finding a happy medium can lead to success

Finding the right level of intensity is a quest common to all top golfers


Last week’s winner of the first of the Fed Ex Cup play-off events, the Barclays, made a telling comment about his winning round that is both enlightening and confusing.

Adam Scott said that he thought his tournament was over on the 13th hole of his final round as nothing was really happening for him. In other words he wasn’t holing any putts. Like most players he had endured a marathon couple of days on Thursday and Friday with the weather delay and was feeling the effects of fatigue.

I had come back on the same ferry with him to Manhattan on Thursday night. Despite the stunning backdrop of the lower Manhattan skyline, lit up for the night and the illuminated Statue of Liberty glowing as we passed by her on the last ferry to Battery Park, we were all tired and aware that we were going to have to be up soon for the first ferry back at 5.30 the next morning.

The captain decided to give us an extra couple of minutes to savour the sights of the statue much to the chagrin of the grumpy passengers. It was just one of those weeks where if you were on the wrong side of the draw, like Adam Scott was, you could easily be forgiven for taking a nonchalant attitude in the end.

Foot off accelerator
So what happened to Adam when he took his foot off the accelerator and decided to cruise home on Sunday last?

He ended up making two birdies. With talented players it is often the case that as soon as you ease off the pressure things start falling into place for you on the golf course. I have seen it on numerous occasions with players desperately trying to make a cut. As soon as they “give up” they actually start to play better.

So is that the new way forward, give up? Of course it isn’t but the art of playing good golf is about trying to the optimum degree to enhance performance. What that is, or trying to find this mysterious level can be an elusive life-time mission for many players.

Those talented players who master it of course win more often. If you don’t really care how you play the intensity is non-existent, if you care too much all day every day the intensity is too high for too long and ultimately too draining.

Adam obviously found his optimum level of concentration after he inwardly admitted that the last round at Liberty National was not going well enough for him to post a winning score. As soon as he released that pressure from himself he played better.

Gary Woodland and the walking wounded – Tiger Woods – were two serious contenders to Scott’s dominant position for the last hour of the tournament. Tiger looked like he was carrying the least mental pressure because he had a back injury as a way out if things didn’ t fall into place for him in the end. With a birdie on 17 and a putt a whisker away from going in on 18 for birdie he characteristically gave it a great go. Despite Tiger never being happy with second place his injury softened the disappointment. What would he have done if he was fully fit?

Makeable chances
Gary Woodland gave himself three very makeable chances for birdies on the final three holes. Tee to green he was playing pure golf. But of course you have to get the ball into the hole somehow and he couldn’t quite do it.

The statistics came up on the television screen for percentage chance from the birdie putt distances he had.

They were all about 10-foot putts and his chances were about 40 per cent. Of course, from the comfort of our easy chairs in front of the TV, it seemed like he was going to make at least one of them and force a play-off if not win outright.

Perhaps Gary Woodland will change his intensity next time he is in a position to win an event. Winners defy the odds, no matter what those odds are suggesting. They make something happen in the denouement to a golf tournament, the statistics are irrelevant.

I am not advocating giving up. Giving up is a very bad habit to get into in golf and its not recommended. But sometimes more is less and every golfer needs to recognise when this point is reached. Just as last week’s winner, Adam Scott, revealed indirectly that he had a change of mindset over the last third of his round and that was when things finally started to happen for him.

Loosening his reigns
Despite Adam loosening his reins over his last five holes there is no doubt that in the back of his well-educated professional mind he was aware that you really are never quite sure just how things are going to shape up at the end of a golf tournament.

Having finished almost an hour before the final group Scott was seasoned enough to know that he should stay in combat mode by warming up again on the range instead of catching the next ferry back to Manhattan.