THERE has never been a ‘perfect’ golfer. Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods each had their flaws. But what made them world beaters was their ability to handle any given situation; their mental games were simply extraordinary.
Then there are players like Jon Rahm, whose hotheadedness leaves plenty to desire. You could argue that his emotional style of play has helped with his rapid rise to success – and the last thing the game needs is less characters. But there’s a balance that needs to be found, especially if he’s serious about breaking into the major winner’s circle.
Take this year’s Masters Tournament for example. The Spaniard finished fourth, which was truly outstanding given it was only his second competitive appearance at Augusta National. But the leaderboard very rarely tells the entire story. And it doesn’t show the meltdowns that potentially kept him from donning the green jacket. The most damning moment came on Sunday. Rahm was charging. And by the time he stood over his ball at the 15th fairway, he had the opportunity to tie the lead if he could successfully make an eagle-three.
It wasn’t to be. The 23-year-old hit what he thought was the “perfect” shot – but he was soon watching as his chances drowned in the pond guarding the front of the green. Rahm threw the toys out of the cot. He hung his head, dropped a shot and then proceeded to par his way into the clubhouse. One shot completely stalled his round. “The only down I would say is the second shot on 15,” Rahm told reporters. “You know, it’s sad, too, because I played so good the last three days and that one shot, one shot where I feel like I made a perfect swing and wound up in the water. It’s just hurtful.”
Players like Hogan, Nicklaus and Woods handled these moments differently – and they never let one moment determine the rest of their round.
Jordan Spieth is probably the best newage player to possess that unique and priceless ability (apart from the obvious exception during the 2016 Masters).
Spieth’s recent recoveries on the 18th hole at Augusta illustrate his mental toughness – and prove why he will continue to feature so prominently at the majors for years to come.
If Rahm wants to take the next step and become a major champion, it would benefit him greatly to channel his emotions positively and learn how to treat each shot on its merits.