‘CON­FI­DENCE IS A GARBAGE TERM IN THAT IT IN­DUCES IL­LU­SIONS OF COM­PE­TENCE.’

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - The Golf Life -

When it came time to make sense of what hap­pened, Horschel’s strat­egy was to dis­miss it as mostly rot­ten luck. He knew he played well, had put him­self in con­tention, and says the side­hill lie was tricky enough that he caught more turf than he an­tic­i­pated. It hap­pens in golf, and he didn’t see the point in dwelling. That he won twice in the next two weeks sug­gests he was right. “Just a re­ally bad swing at the wrong time,” Horschel says.

Fast-for­ward to Novem­ber 2016, though, and Horschel com­mit­ted an­other tour­na­ment-end­ing blun­der when he missed a two-foot putt to re­main in a play­off in the RSM Clas­sic. This time there was no re­demp­tive fol­low-up, but here, too, Horschel says he prof­ited from the ex­pe­ri­ence. Re­vis­it­ing the se­quence, he recog­nised he had rushed through his rou­tine, and that a weak left hand on the put­ter kept the club­face open at im­pact. It was a cru­cial mis­take, but at least he un­der­stood why.

“It’s a tough way to learn some­thing, but I learned it,” he said days later.

Horschel’s two high-pro­file tour­na­ment losses rep­re­sent dis­tinct case stud­ies of how peo­ple han­dle los­ing ef­fec­tively – one where they graze lightly over their worst mo­ments, an­other in which they look more care­fully. More than most golfers, Horschel has em­braced how to ben­e­fit from los­ing. I wrote a book about this con­cept, Win At Los­ing: How Our Big­gest Set­backs Can Lead To Our Great­est Gains, which ex­plores the var­i­ous ways los­ing and fail­ure are of­ten the most fer­tile op­por­tu­ni­ties for growth. In ev­ery­thing from sports to busi­ness to pol­i­tics, my ar­gu­ment is that within our big­gest mis­takes are the lessons for how to be bet­ter.

On an ab­stract level, it’s a prin­ci­ple most can em­brace, but where golf presents a unique counter is when con­sid­er­ing our of­ten-frag­ile psy­ches.The last thing any of us wants stand­ing over the ball is a cat­a­logue of our worst swings swirling in our heads.

Dr Bob Rotella ar­gues that rather than con­tem­plate all the ways a golf shot can go wrong, we need to chan­nel our en­ergy to what we want to see hap­pen. “No one wins if they don’t be­lieve it,” says Rotella, whose book, Golf Is A Game Of Con­fi­dence, so I can cre­ate a pos­i­tive.”

What Nick­laus de­scribes is what Dr Fran Piroz­zolo, a sport psy­chol­o­gist and men­tal-skills coach, calls “healthy self-doubt,” in which we’re aware of our lim­i­ta­tions and can con­struct a game plan to counter them. In the same way Billy Horschel learned the hard way what hap­pens when he rushes his putting rou­tine, there is value in know­ing what pre­cisely holds us back.

“Con­fi­dence is a garbage term in that it in­duces il­lu­sions of com­pe­tence,” Piroz­zolo says. “What you re­ally need is a pas­sion to work hard to get the best an­swers about why things hap­pen the way they do.”

Even at the game’s high­est rung, this is a tough place to go. Of 200 play­ers or so on the PGA Tour, Horschel es­ti­mates maybe only 30 are will­ing to spend time truly dig­ging into the de­fi­cien­cies that cost them. “Ev­ery­one else is scared to look in the mir­ror,” he says. “They shield them­selves from it. That’s what makes guys like Rory and Spi­eth so great.They never shy away from their mis­takes.”

Whether you’re chunk­ing a 6-iron with $1 mil­lion on the line or blow­ing a lead in a club bet­ter­ball match, golf’s re­la­tion­ship with fail­ure is com­pli­cated.There’s the be­lief we needn’t breathe life into our mis­takes for fear they will fes­ter. On the other hand, it might be bet­ter to tackle prob­lems sur­gi­cally and strate­gi­cally. When PGA

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