A guy walks into a bar… Ah, no, that’s another story.
A guy walks into the media room and shares the secret of golf.
He describes an early stretch in the second round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, where there was a hopeful moment from a great shot…and then what ensued:
…and then for some reason I just struggled the rest of the day.
Is there any way you can explain how you go from playing really well one day to not as well the next day?
Just golf, huh?
There was a pause. It was one of those pregnant pauses where you know the guy is just pulling your leg and you’re waiting for him to just come clean and tell you the answer. What is the secret?
But the guy offers up nothing and seems slightly annoyed at the question.
Because there is no secret. If there was a secret and the guy knew the secret, he wouldn’t have had a “not as well” day.
The guy, as you already knew from the telltale title of this post, was Tiger Woods. He was speaking right after his round on Friday and the thrust of the question was how do you go from shooting a tournament leading 66 the first day and then follow that up with a fall-off-a-cliff 73?
He didn’t know. All he knew was that he did it and he was none too pleased about it.
What are you going to work on for the weekend?
I’m going to go hit some balls and putt for a while. I figured something out on the back nine with my [putting] stroke, which was good. But I still need to hit the ball better than I did today, for sure.
Thursday he was pretty much in complete control of his game. He missed some fairways but none of them wildly. He did make two bogeys, but he more than made up for them with six birdies. He missed some putts he probably thought he should have made, but only lost a quarter of a stroke to the field with a 26-putt day.
Friday was a very different day. He was missing fairways wildly (for him). And even though he had some heroic, magical recoveries, too often one mess led to another.
You’ve got to get the ball on the fairway. This Bermuda rough is thin enough where every ball is sitting at the bottom. It just won’t sit up. It’s just really hard to judge how far it’s going to go, and sometimes it doesn’t even fly straight. It’s imperative to get the ball on the fairway, and from there, you can attack.
But he missed six fairways and a total of seven greens, one of them on the very first hole where he hit it in the greenside bunker with a sand wedge from 111 yards.
Yeah, I was trying to use the backboard there behind the hole, and just stuck it straight in the ground. Then made a couple of mistakes there [a slightly fat bunker shot that luckily rolled to 7 feet and a missed putt].
So the greatest player on the planet made the same mistake most of us make after a really good round: we try to do the same thing we did yesterday.
Here’s the thing though. Of course you want to do the same thing you did yesterday, but you want to do it by being completely present to the new day, not mimicking yesterday.
Yesterday, you had a keen sense of your swing that you trusted. When you trust, you have freedom. And when you have freedom, you don’t stick your sand wedge in the ground from 111 yards. When you don’t trust, you regress into trying to make “the swing” rather than relaxing enough to just play to targets.
When you don’t trust, to make “the swing,” you revert to swing mechanics, the fool’s gold of competitive golf. It seems so logical, “If I just get this right, everything out there will work out.” The problem is that, “everything out there,” orders, “everything in here.”
And once you start down the mechanical road, it takes a long time to remember the only path back to the surface: mechanics on the range, targets on the course.
Words to live by.