Hunter Mahan: Learning to Get Over It

Hunter Mahan shot a 4-under 66 (to finish T2) in the opening round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, but you’d have to say it was a bit uneven. Uneven, as in he shot 6-under, 29, on the front nine with an eagle and four birdies…and then shot 2-over, 37, on the back with two bogeys, two birdies and a double on 18. Who can explain it?

It started out so promising too. He was paired with Jordan Spieth (-3) and Jason Dufner (-3) and they were cruising around the course. To hear Mahan describe the interrelation between the three of them, it was almost like poetry in motion:

“I think when everyone’s got a good rhythm, guys are swinging well, guys are having a good time, it makes golf — I don’t want to say easier — but it helps the morale and everything.  I had two good guys to play with this week, and we were playing well.  Just great pace, great rhythm in the round and everything.  So it was a fun day.”

And what that led to for Mahan himself was a satisfying day:

“I played good for the most part.  Hit a lot of good shots and felt pretty comfortable with the irons in my hands.  I was able to make a lot of great swings and have some short birdies and made some nice putts.  Everything feels good.  Just got to continue to put the ball in play out here, and then that could lead to being aggressive kind of going into the greens.”

But there was the matter of that back nine. How was he able to live with himself after blowing the possibility of a 59 when he shot the requisite 29 on the front? Wasn’t it a little embarrassing to choke like that? What kind of omen does that cast on Friday’s round? Is he afraid he’ll lose it in mid-round again tomorrow? In a word, ah, no.

“Yeah, I mean, you have three more days.  You have to get over it.  Playing professional golf, you’re playing a ton of golf, and not all of it is going to be great.  So you learn to get over things and move on.”

“Get over things and move on.” Words to live by. That’s why almost all of these guys (and ladies) have this dispassionate demeanor that allows them to roll with the punches and regroup on the fly. It is one part a positive attitude, one part forward looking rather than reliving history and one part objective thinking.

Objective thinking opens whole vistas of possibility because it isn’t wrapped up in subjective thinking and all the drama and emotion that comes with it. To quote from the chapter on mastery from my forthcoming book, Generating Miracles: A Spiritual Adventure on the Champion Tour:

“There is no value from a mastery point of view in labeling the outcomes of shots except in the starkest, objective terms. Excoriating invectives about the shot just hit deep into the woods clouds the awareness required to determine why it was hit there in the first place. It is much more valuable to know in objective terms that the ball went right of your target because you slid forward on the shot and didn’t get the club face square at impact than it is to label the shot as terrible, yourself as an idiot and the round as ruined—even though in subjective terms, all of those things may be true.”

“The single most important condition for fostering learning is dispassionate, objective observation. It’s not like there still won’t be an occasional emotional reaction to “bad” shots, but the goal is to get over it (with the long term goal of eliminating emotional volatility altogether) so that your senses can tell you what happened and you can learn from the experience.”

Why, it’s almost as if Hunter Mahan read my manuscript!

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