So often when a player shoots 62, the next day he shoots 72. Not always, but no one is surprised. And when the players shoots 67 the next day, everybody is pleasantly surprised…and starts thinking that it might be the beginning of something big.
That’s what happened to Ben Martin on Friday at the Zurich Classic at the TPC Louisiana in Avondale, Louisiana, just across the river from New Orleans. Not bad for a guy who only made 1 out of 8 cuts coming into last week’s RBC Heritage in Hilton Head where he finished T3. And now this.
He leads Web.com grad, Andrew Svoboda by three and Seung-Yul Noh and Robert Streb by four. (To get a sense of the importance of making the Top 125 on the FedExCup points list, Streb finished 126th last year and has only gotten into six events coming into this week.)
And in one of those pleasantly surprising moments, Martin did it by managing to do what he did Thursday. He described the round:
“Yeah, overall, I don’t think it could have gone much better. Yesterday ten birdies, eight pars, no complaints. Today I got off to a hot start, birdie, eagle, par, birdie, so I was 4‑under through four. Maybe got a little bit ahead of myself on the last couple holes of the opening nine making a bogey and a double bogey on 18.”
And then he talked about how he recaptured the moment:
“So my caddie, Alex and I, were talking down the first fairway. I was like, you know, yesterday I felt like I really stayed in the moment on every shot. I wasn’t worried about what had happened previously or what was coming up. Just try to do that again on this nine.”
“Executed most every shot, just like I wanted to on the last nine holes [the front nine] and I shot 4‑under. Only two hiccups were a couple three‑putts on 18 and 2, and other than that, I’m extremely pleased.”
Off to that rollicking start on his front nine, he ran headlong into trouble on 17 and 18 with a bogey and a 3-putt, double bogey, on a par 5, no less. On his way to the 1st hole, he “erased” those two messes and kept going for it:
“I don’t know if I had a talk with myself, but I was like, all right, this is a new nine holes. You know, it’s turned around like I’ve been doing, like I’ve been playing all week. I didn’t have to change anything because I’ve been playing well.”
“I was just kind of erasing, really, the three‑putt. The drive was bad but almost crossed the hazard. Ended up having to drop back by the tee box. But if I had gotten out of there two putts and a 6, I would have been happy, but the three‑putt was more what was a little frustrating.”
Asked if thought he would have any problem getting to sleep, he didn’t think so. And as is so often the case these days, leaned on scripture from the Bible:
“Hopefully, not at all. I actually have a scripture written in my yardage book from Galatians 6, and it kind of talks about basing your performance on how you’re working and not worrying about what anybody else is doing. [But let each man prove his own work, and then shall he have his glorying in regard of himself alone, and not of his neighbor.]”
“So I’ve been reading that kind of constantly throughout the round. It’s helping me just kind of not look up at the leaderboard and just say, hey, I’m going to go do what I’ve got to do and put in the work and add them up at the end.”
He had one other advantage for a player who’s hot: his tee times were late-early this week:
“We went straight to the player party and had dinner, and pretty much shower and bed and got right back out here. Yeah, it was nice. I tried not to worry about if I had the early‑late or late‑early, but after a good round it was nice to not have to think about it too much and just get right back out here.”
And he explained again how just a simple tweaking of his annual goals has given him a whole new sense of freedom that has “allowed” all of this recent excellent play:
“I’m always kind of an analytical guy, and tweaking week to week and what can I make a little bit better? So I like to play around with weekly goals or yearly goals. But really I changed my yearly goal from winning two times, to being top 30 in the FedExCup and playing the TOUR Championship.”
“So I wanted to win two tournaments. So I was thinking about winning every week and I was missing cuts, so it was really frustrating.”
“But now when I kind of have that goal to be in Atlanta [for the Tour Championship and FedExCup] at the end of the year, then it’s kind of a week‑by‑week deal where I can say, ‘All right, I’m creeping up the FedExCup money list.’ I think that takes a lot of the pressure off.”
One of the reporters was incredulous. It’s worth including his question verbatim:
Q. Can it really be as simple as changing your mindset from getting out of a cold spell where you missed 7 of 8 cuts to shooting 15‑under par for two days and leading by 4? Is it really just one mental light that goes on? It can’t be that simplistic, right?
“I don’t have another good answer for you, really (laughing). I don’t really ever change my swing. I don’t really think a whole lot about mechanics. To me it’s more just, really all it was was that’s all I did is kind of change my goal at the end of the year. I think it freed me up. I wasn’t as worried about where I was finishing.”
As I pore through the player transcripts every night looking specifically for comments on the mastery process and achieving, maintaining, losing and regaining the optimum mindset that allows players to excel, there aren’t too many as seemingly magical as this last answer of Martin’s. And all the rest provide a rich context for that magic.