One of the best parts about winning a tournament on the PGA Tour is that, even if you haven’t won in four years, everybody wants you to keep reflecting back on your victory.
And so a week after his three-hole playoff victory at The Heritage at Harbour Town, Brandt Snedeker was in the interview room at this week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans at the TPC Louisiana in Avondale, Louisiana.
PGA Tour staffer Doug Milne kicked things off with the first question. It’s interesting because his answer, as I discussed about Graeme MacDowell in “Being Prepared,” begins with how in winning a tournament, you lose your freedom to stay in your weekly routine:
… Obviously quite a big week for you last week, ended successfully for you, not necessarily in regulation, but the way you wanted it to end. Just a few comments about last week…
Yeah, it’s a been a whirlwind for 48 hours since I left on Sunday. It was a great week last week. I’ve had some time to sit back and reflect and realize how special Sunday was and the round of golf I played, and to be able to beat Luke [Donald] in the playoff and everything [it entailed] was a huge confidence boost for me moving forward. I’m looking forward to this week now as fun as last week was and as much fun as I had on Sunday night and Monday. Spent time with the family; that was great.
But now I’m here in New Orleans and I want to win again this week. I love this golf course. The golf course is in great shape, great week, and love being here in New Orleans. It’s fun.
In this next question, his answer goes to the need for belief in yourself and patience. And it explains Tiger’s optimism when he talks about how he feels that he’s “just right there.” It’s not false optimism, it’s certainty that you will eventually find your way.
Q. Did you see the final round coming?
You know, to be honest with you, I didn’t see it coming that low. I thought I was — I knew I was playing well, but I didn’t think it was all clicking at the same time. Kind of funny how that works sometimes where you feel like you’re playing well but you’re not really clicking on all cylinders, and then just somehow Sunday morning something kind of clicked, and I hit the ball fantastic all day Sunday and made a lot of putts.
Those days happen once in a blue moon really out here where on a Sunday you put it all together and make a big charge like that, and that was exciting.
In this next answer, he gives us some comfort that it’s not just us who get nervous. He looked cool as a cucumber all afternoon, but he proves the point that even the best quake. And in closing, he also alludes to that serenity and certainty that you find when you get yourself into the zone.
Q. On TV you looked real relaxed during the playoff. Were you in a comfort zone there?
No, a duck on a pond [placid above the surface, paddling like crazy beneath]. I was definitely, definitely super-nervous. Had a lot of thoughts going through my head, but the biggest thing for me was I drove the ball in the exact same spot all three times [on 18; in regulation and two of the playoff holes]. I knew the exact [yardage], the exact shot I needed to hit, and that was very comforting.
Knowing that and also knowing that this is what you want to do, if you want to win a golf tournament this is what you have to do, you have to step up and hit the right shots at the right time, and I was as confident as I’d ever been in the way I was hitting the ball that day and the way I felt.
For some reason I just didn’t think I was going to lose. I wasn’t going to let myself lose. I literally thought the playoff might last nine holes because of the way Luke had been playing and us birdying the first hole and a couple pars, but fortunately enough Luke made a mistake and I was able to capitalize on that.
In this last answer, he talks about the importance of taking the time off necessary to heal injuries [instead of allowing your swing to get out of balance because of instinctive compensations]. And he spoke again about not looking at the results on the ground for evidence that you will soon be playing to your capabilities. And that you never know when the breakthrough will come.
Q. What’s behind that confidence?
Just getting healthy. I had some surgery in the off-season and got — took about 12 weeks away from the game is what it took to get me healthy again. When I came back at the Bob Hope I was 100 percent healthy, my golf swing felt great, and I just really played great golf, you know, all year. I’ve missed some cuts, and people were calling me going, what’s going on, why are you missing so many cuts, and I said, I can’t explain it to you because I’m playing great and just getting some bad breaks here and there, just having one of those weeks where nothing goes right.
I broke through last week, and everybody is starting to realize now that, yeah, you’re right, you are playing pretty good. So it’s kind of nice.
Kind of nice indeed.
I’m still enjoying your posts, Bill. Further to your focus on mental mastery, note two articles in today’s NYT sports section. The first (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/28/sports/baseball/28smoltz.html?_r=1&ref=sports) concerns a retired MLB pitcher trying to make the cut in the current Nationwide Tour event. It is laced with psycho babble (existential validation, fight-or-fight primal urges, dealing with internal demons, doing a Kevin Na on the pitcher’s mound, the downsides of dreaming about post-game remarks at the top of the seventh, and much more). The story struck me as having lots of grist for your mill. The other article comes right off a shrink’s couch (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/04/28/sports/20110428-durkincalls.html?ref=sports) and details the debilitation-by-anxiety of one of the nation’s foremost horse race announcers who is giving up his gig as NBC’s caller of the Kentucky Derby. Albeit on a different kind of course, there are morsels in this story, too, that I think are right up your alley.
Thanks, Robert. I knew about Smotlz; many have high praise for his game and chances. And I’ll check out the race announcer. As you point out, the principles are broadly applicable.