Sergio Garcia: Playing in The Zone

Sergio Garcia had one of those days…in a good way. In a very good way. His round got off to a solid enough start with a settling par on the 1st and a routine birdie on the short, par-5 2nd. And then he settled into a routine, a routine that racked up seven straight pars. So not great, but solid, especially at Firestone Country Club.

“But I obviously got off to a pretty good start and then a couple of bad tee shots on the front nine, but I managed to get a little bit lucky.  Had a couple of good par saves. “

And then everything changed. He birdied every hole on the back nine except for the 11th  That gave him seven straight birdies which he cobbled together with some great putting to shoot 27. He had a stretch of 11 consecutive one-putts. That 61 was his career-best round and it gave him a three-shot lead over Justin Rose. 

“I don’t know.  Just one of those moments that you love and you enjoy and you wish there were no end.”

“On the back nine, I rolled a great putt on the 10th.  I made two great swings there to give me a little bit more confidence.  Rolled a great putt, and then I started hitting really, really good shots coming in.”

“It was a combination of getting good numbers, hitting good shots.  Then when I wasn’t too close from the hole, I rolled a couple of nice putts in.”

Okay, so a guy gets hotter than hot and puts together an incredible run — only Corey Pavin had a lower one, a 26 in Milwaukee — that is so exceptional that surely we’ll be able to gain some insights into how he was feeling. What was going on inside of him?

“To tell you the truth, I don’t know.  I felt quite comfortable throughout that whole stretch, and obviously I was fortunate enough to hit some really good shots on tough holes.”

“13 — I mean, the pin on 12 wasn’t that easy because there was a little bit of breeze from the left.  But 13, 15, obviously they’re holes that maybe you don’t expect to birdie that often.”

“And then when I hit a little bit farther, I just kept rolling them in.  It was one of those moments where you can see the lines, you can see everything, and everything feels smooth.”

One reporter labeled it, “a work of art,” and it was to both those who watched it and to Sergio in his mind’s eye as he played each shot. There is a state of grace that you fall into where everything slows down and as he says, “you can see everything.” This does not occur in the realm of swing thoughts, it happens in an artist’s eye.

“I mean, I’ve been fortunate to have some good rounds, but that was definitely — I think that was my lowest round in tournament play and also my lowest nine holes.  So it was very nice. To be able to do that on this golf course in this tournament and to tie the course record, it’s — I feel very, very fortunate.”

Any better sense of how he got into that state of mind?

“No, I’m not going to come here and say I was in a bubble and all that stuff.  I was enjoying it.  Obviously, I felt very calm throughout the day, and I just had a couple of bad tee shots on the front nine.”

“But I was able to recover nicely.  I got a couple of good breaks, and then back nine everything just started happening.  I rolled a great putt on 10, had a good birdie chance on 11, and I started hitting it quite close.”

Another reporter pressed on for details on whether he had a different feeling in his body or felt like he was “in the zone.” When extraordinary things happen, we all clamor for more on how they happen:

“No.  I mean, that’s — to me, that’s — I don’t know.  I don’t even know what “the zone” is.  The only thing I can tell you is I was feeling very comfortable.  I was obviously very calm. I could see what I wanted to do pretty much almost every shot.  And I could see the lines in the putts quite well.”

“There were a couple of tricky putts that I was able to — because I was feeling so comfortable, I was able to trust my reads and hit good putts.  And then, obviously, I was fortunate to roll some of them in.”

“So I don’t know if it was the zone or what it was, but the only thing I can tell you is I was obviously feeling very comfortable and very calm.”

And still the media clamored for more. This was special! Everybody wonders about the zone and what that’s like. Sergio used the word, “comfortable.” What is it that creates that feeling of being comfortable?

“I don’t know.  To tell you the truth, I think there’s days where you feel comfortable, at ease, just is very relaxed, like you feel like your heartbeat is very calm.  You don’t get too pumped up.”

“And then there’s days where you don’t feel quite as good.  I mean, obviously today I felt really good on the back nine and a little bit on the front.  But then I had three holes — 7, 8, and 9‑‑ where my stomach felt a little bit funny, and I felt a little bit weird.”

It wasn’t all a bed of roses…

“I hit a couple bad shots because I wasn’t thinking what I wanted to do, and I was doing different things on my swing.  Then when I got to 10, I thought, ‘Come on, let’s try to do what you’ve been doing and try to swing the same way you’ve been doing and stop moving so much and see if you can get back into it.'”

They must have been the magic words…

“Like I said, I hit two really nice shots on 10.  That gave me a lot of confidence, and from then on, I started hitting a lot of shots the way I wanted to.  So that was really nice.”

With all of these ideas laid out for us, the inevitable question is how do you do it again?

“I’m just going to try to keep doing the same.  Keep playing the way I played, the way I’ve been playing, and hopefully try to shoot another good score.”

“We’ll see what the future holds for us.”

Unfortunately, “the same,” isn’t an easily ordered and executed checklist. It is an amalgam of all of those things, some higher in your consciousness than others, but all there and all contributing factors.

So successfully surfacing them again is not so much in the realm of “doing” as it is in the realm of “allowing.” This, a concept easily intellectualized, but not so easily repeated as that first tee looms in the morning.

So often it just comes down to getting that first tee shot competently in play — or at least what feels like competently — and it all unfolds naturally from there.

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One Response to Sergio Garcia: Playing in The Zone

  1. John Shanholt says:

    It would seem that, if you know what puts you in “the zone”, then you can’t get there!