WHAT IF EV­ERY­THING YOU’VE BEEN TOLD TO THINK IS WRONG?

Golf Digest Middle East - - Play Your Best Competition Slug By Firstname Lastn - BY SAM WEINMAN

most golfers have se­lec­tive mem­o­ries. Ask us to re­count our best shots, and we can tell you the club we hit, where we hit it, and what­ever it was we just had for lunch. It’s ev­ery­thing else that tends to be a blur. The im­pli­ca­tion of need­ing just one great shot to “bring you back” is that you’re choos­ing to re­press all the medi­ocre shots that came be­fore and after. Even the best in the world can fil­ter the game this way. Con­sider the event­ful Septem­ber that Billy Horschel had in 2014, when he won the BMW Cham­pi­onship and the Tour Cham­pi­onship, which also meant the FedEx Cup and its $10-million bonus. A lu­cra­tive hot streak made all the more im­pres­sive con­sid­er­ing what had im­me­di­ately pre­ceded: The week be­fore the BMW, at the Deutsche Bank Cham­pi­onship, Horschel hit one of the worst shots imag­in­able un­der pressure when he chun­ked a 6-iron into a haz­ard on the fi­nal hole and lost by two. to his the­ory. “Peo­ple will say skill is most im­por­tant, but I know plenty of guys on the range who have skill and who don’t be­lieve, and I know guys who don’t have as much skill but who be­lieve. I know who I’m tak­ing on tour­na­ment day.”

Here’s an often-quoted maxim from golf’s great­est cham­pion, Jack Nick­laus: “Con­fi­dence is the most im­por­tant sin­gle fac­tor in this game.” But even Nick­laus says con­fi­dence has min­i­mal value if it means sup­press­ing the most valu­able in­for­ma­tion.

“Some­body say­ing you’ve got to al­ways be pos­i­tive and elim­i­nate all the other things in your mind and then hit a shot sounds good, but it isn’t an ideal ap­proach,” Nick­laus says. “The realm of hit­ting a golf shot to me is, to be able to stand up know­ing the shot I want to hit and know­ing the prob­lems I’ve had so I can then be pos­i­tive about play­ing that shot. I want to know all the fac­tors. I want to know

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 Great

est 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 cat­a­log 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, speaks all the nega­tives so I can cre­ate a pos­i­tive.”

What Nick­laus de­scribes is what Dr. Fran Piroz­zolo, a sport psy­chol­o­gist and men­tal­skills 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 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 3-up lead in a $5 nas­sau, 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 Tour win-

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

Pho­to­graph by First Last­name month 2017 Il­lus­tra­tions golfdi­gest.by com Ed­die Guy

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