Thursday, Keegan Bradley was all the rage. Anybody who shoots 60 on the first day of a PGA Tour tournament would be. In this case, the HP Byron Nelson Championship in Dallas. He had the best of the draw with a windless morning tee time and playing with his good friends Jason Dufner and Matt Kuchar. He said it was like playing with his buddies on a Saturday morning.
Friday was a different story. He had the afternoon wind, but still managed to scrape it around in 1-under 69. That took him another stroke deeper which kept Thursday’s close chasers at bay; they all shot Even par to lose ground to him. And it moved the brass ring a little further away for Friday morning’s hard chargers.
Tom Gillis had the low round, a 7-under 63 that shot him up the board to 8-under and 2nd place. He’s tied with second-year player, Sang-Moon Bae, who matched his first round 66.
John Huh shot 64 to bound up to 4th and tied with Ryan Palmer (68) and Charl Schwartzel (Even).
Bradley was the most interesting from a mastery point of view because he was trying to do one of the hardest things to do in golf, back up a really low round. And while he only got it one lower, given the circumstances, he was happy with the round.
I’m happy with shooting 69, didn’t feel comfortable today, just was a different feeling today going off. The first hole is probably the easiest hole out here, I don’t know why I keep making bogey on that hole. It was a good round today, solid round, a lot tougher than it was yesterday, so I’m happy with it.
One of the things that helped him to be more satisfied with a seemingly bland round was the personal perspective he brought to it:
Yeah, I don’t get too caught up in it. Whenever you shoot rounds like that, people make a big deal out of it, more than I do. I got 100 rounds yesterday from the guys, and one time in Nationwide I shot 61 and shot 77 the next day, so I wanted to go out ready and focused today and ready to shoot a good number.
But even so, the wind was up and it wasn’t easy:
The greens are firming up a little, they’re still soft but firmer than yesterday. The wind was definitely more difficult, it was blowing, it was gusting. But, you know, the scores were still there to get. Anything under par I think from here on out is a pretty good score out here.
Relaxing into the media session, he acknowledged that it was almost more proud of this round than Thursday’s because the conditions were tougher and he didn’t feel right:
I’m almost more proud of this round than yesterday because I didn’t feel comfortable all day. I don’t know what it was, I can’t put my finger on it but, you know, I bogeyed the first hole, I was a little uncomfortable and then I settled in and hit some really good shots. I think that bodes well for the weekend, coming off two missed cuts and all that, it felt good to go out there and play well, and increase my lead which is all that really matters at this point.
In fact, he added to his score, but his lead remained the same; it was just different guys, Gillis and Bae, in the rearview mirror.
The reason that he felt “uncomfortable” on Friday is simply because he wasn’t able to be as present to the moment as he was on Thursday. On Thursday, he was “just playing” with his buddies. On Friday, he was playing with the same two guys, but he was probably trying to replicate what he did on Thursday rather than just being in the same conducive mind-state.
When something like that Thursday happens, you spend the night running a mental checklist of all the things you think you did to make it happen. But if you were in a swoon with the golf and just playing, you were doing things you didn’t even realize that you were doing. Across the subsets of the physical, the mental and the “being,” there are broad ranges of items you could have been doing. But which ones?
Which of the hypothetical 100 physical movements that make up a good golf swing were the ones that you were emphasizing, consciously or unconsciously? How alert were you and how clearly were you seeing the day’s choices? And probably most important, with who you were being on Thursday, how were you enabling all the things in the first two subsets? Was there fear or boldness? Timidity or overexcitement? Or just pure calm?
The very difficult secret is to somehow re-capture the mind-state that enabled the three laundry lists of dos and don’ts, all the quite logical checklists that go out the window when you’re “just playing.”
In his comments about how he was able to shoot his 63, Tom Gillis captures the essence of this idea of just “being:”
I think I got reunited with my old coach, I stepped away for a couple of months and tried to do some things on my own and kinda got lost. Fortunately he was nice enough to take me back, so he just presented a calm over me. I felt like I was back to the old stuff, normal, the way it was.
I think that relaxed me and when you’re relaxed you play good. I think that’s helped a lot.
And as with Bradley, he was successful because of the atmosphere of playing with two friends:
Yeah, it was good, I played nice, made a lot of putts, had a good pace, we played in good time, didn’t have to wait around much. I had two friends that I play with, we were first off, that always makes it nice, Tim Herron and Joe Ogilvie, so it was good.
And this nice, self-effacing exchange to emphasize another successful mind-state:
You were talking about reuniting with your coach. Talk about why were you not with your coach?
We had some — we had disagreements on some things and that was kinda why.
What’s different this week?
That I didn’t work with him for two months, that’s what’s different. You talk things out, work things out, people change.
A little more agreement this week?
I think he was right all along to be honest with you.