How to play better golf
Play the right shot
I’ve learned to trust my gut instinct, both on and off the golf course. In a tournament I’m always trying to analyse the environment I’m in – where I am on the leaderboard, how I feel – and make intelligent decisions. You have to hit the appropriate shot. That means if you’re one behind playing the last hole of a tournament and you’re in the trees, you might try the miracle shot to force a playoff. But if it’s the second round you take your medicine and play out. Don’t compound one bad decision with another.
The only two elements out there are the golf course and you. The golf course doesn’t know or care what handicap you play off, or whether you are ranked in the world’s top 10. That means every week I have to go and build a new body of work. I have to build a score and the course will only reward good golf, regardless of who’s playing it. You have to trust your skills and manage your way around the course accordingly.
Reacting to adversity
I always say: “It’s only a bad shot if you react badly to it.” You need to accept that you’re human and if you make a bad decision, or hit a bad shot, you have to accept that too. As long as you learn from it, don’t beat yourself up about making a mistake. Let it go immediately – then give yourself a challenge. “I’ve hit it in the trees, so this will be a great par.”
One thing I’ve learned through my career is that even though I might be feeling nervous, it doesn’t mean I’m going to hit a bad shot. Earlier in my career, I used to associate nerves with anxiety and poor shots, but if you feed your brain the positives, your body will take over – even if you’re feeling nervous you can still go ahead and hit a great shot. Breathing is a huge part of that – my pre-shot routine involves a deep breath to put me into the present, and then I go through my shot.
The joy in golf is the mastery of the game. Obviously there’s no better feeling than when you stand there with a trophy at the end of the tournament, but if you get too concerned with the results, you often lose sight of how to get there. Basically, if hitting a great golf shot and the feel of it is enough for you, it doesn’t have to be about winning tournaments. It’s about the quiet moments, say in the evening on the range when the sun is going down. You hit a perfect shot and just think: “Wow.” If you can appreciate those moments, that’s what enjoying the game is all about.