Golf mastery snippets from the Shell Houston Open

So often we listen to or read the transcripts of Tour players and our eyes glaze over with the banality of the comments about yardages and clubs and the like. And even when there’s good mastery content in their comments, it’s easy to gloss over them because they can be very understated. They need a little emphasis for us to go, “Ohhh. I know what he’s talking about.

Here then are some answers to questions after Friday’s second round at the Shell Houston Open. 

Q.  Can it be difficult to kind of curb the enthusiasm with what awaits next week [the Masters]?

PHIL MICKELSON:  No, because — it could.  It, certainly could.  But for me it’s not, and the reason is I know that for me to have a good chance next week, I’ve got to play well this week.  I’ve got to get in contention.  I’ve done that so far.  I’ve got to continue to stay focused, hit shots and be sharp throughout the weekend.  If I’m able to do that, that will give me momentum heading into next week.

Q.  Is this a real mental thing for you tomorrow with the situation you’re in and everything, trying to think about it but not think about it, et cetera?

ANDREW PUTNAM:  Yeah.  Golf is always a mental battle no matter where you’re at.  It will be interesting challenge.  Haven’t been there before, so we’ll see what it brings.

Q. What turned it around for you?

GRAHAM DELAET:  My wife is out for the first time in a couple weeks and just a different approach.  Gabriel said to go have fun.  I’ve been grinding so hard and trying to get to the Masters and working and almost trying too hard and not letting the game happen.  That’s what I’ve been doing.  I mean, it’s exciting.  I’m in good shape going into the weekend, and that’s all you can ask for.

Q.   Jordan, nice round there, the last.  What a great back-9 that was to really get some things going.

JORDAN SPIETH:  Yeah, sure.  Played the first seven holes really well.  Had a lot of good chances and just misreads here, just didn’t quite match the line and speed.  So, stayed really patient, though.

Q.  Bogey-free, that’s got to be nice.

LUKE GUTHRIE:  If I can keep that recipe going around for the weekend, just trying to keep it simple and don’t put any bogies on the card, you know, and birdies kind of add up a little better that way.

Q.  You really seem to walk really fast, do a lot of things fast out there.  Is that to keep your tempo?

LUKE GUTHRIE:  Honestly, I’ve kind of struggled with slow play here early in my career.  I’m better this year and last year I’ve gotten better.  I was kind of walking fast, kind of like a way to make up for it.  But throughout my whole life I’ve always, when I’m playing good, I’m kind of out there, first off the tee and kind of out there to kind of go get it.  Good posture, all other things.  Just little things I’m trying to focus on.

Q.  Do you find yourself a little more juiced playing here than someplace else?  Is there an X factor here that helps you?

SHAWN STEFANI:  This morning I was really tired.  I played a lot of golf here recently, so not running on fumes but just trying to conserve some energy.  I think the energy that the crowd is bringing, you know, lot of friends and family are out.  It’s nice to have that.  Obviously with positive energy, it can kind of keep you motivated and going.  So, I wouldn’t really say I’m juiced, but I do feel there’s some positive stuff going on out here this week.

SHAWN STEFANI:  Getting more comfortable out here.  Playing against the guys and meeting new guys and obviously playing well.  There’s nothing that really helps you than — helps you more than playing well.  I played well, I had a few chances to win out here, and you get comfortable, little bit more confident.  And, you know, it’s just I think I got to attribute my good play to that because a little bit more comfortable out here.

Q.  Does that ever get old, leader of the free world is out watching golf?

HUNTER MAHAN:  I got to meet Clinton, got to meet Obama this year.  Spent time with 43 and 41.  It’s been cool to meet four presidents and pretty — it’s crazy what this game has kind of provided and given me an opportunity to meet so many cool people.

Q.  Is there a stretch where the confidence — are you kind of regaining confidence?

HUNTER MAHAN:  I think no, not too much.  I think it’s just — you know, I didn’t prepare for the year like I needed to and I was having a baby in February.  Had a decent off-season.  And I just — I didn’t work it the right way.  I didn’t practice when I should have and taking the time off.  And then it’s hard to get momentum.  I played a week, week off.  I just feel like I haven’t gained any rhythm because when I do feel like I’m close, I have to go home.  I don’t say I have to go home.  You like to keep some rhythm up and keep working and get on the golf course over and over again.  I haven’t been able to do that.  That’s no one’s fault.  I didn’t prepare for the year like I probably needed to.

Q.  You’ve doing better these first two rounds than maybe you were doing earlier in the year?

KEEGAN BRADLEY:  You know, today I hit it almost every fairway and missed one green.  You know, I feel as though this year I’ve played well, I just — it’s one of those things where I got to stay patient because I feel solid every tournament I play.  The numbers haven’t been there.

All of these mastery snippets have in common that they are intended to keep the player centered. To keep them calm, clear and present. Because even when you inject mental intensity into the moment, you can play in a state of calm, have a mind that is piercingly clear and a state of keen, unfettered awareness of everything occurring in the moment.

That’s when golf is at its best.

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