MEN­TAL GAMES

Golf Australia - - 19TH HOLE - – Michael Jones

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.

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