One of the things I wanted to discuss in 2014 Pro Golf Synopsis, but I struggled to quantify, is that I think one of the largest myths in golf is that what separates the Tour player from the rest of us is that their bad shots are better than ours.
I find this to NOT be true. And I think that myth leaves golfers more puzzled and they don’t quite understand the mentality it takes to play great golf or to permanently improve their game.
Almost every tournament on Tour I now follow on ShotTracker to a degree. I will follow not only my own clients, but other players as well. And one thing that occurs to me is that the Tour players hit far more god awful shots than most people think they do. I’ve seen Tour player players, even multi-time winners on Tour, hit shanks (even chip shots), snap hooks, ground balls, pop-ups, etc. In fact, here’s the best player in the world hitting a god awful 3-wood:
Speaking of Rory, I have had a few clients that have played with Rory and that have told me the same thing 'I can’t believe how aggressive he is and what shots he tries to pull off.' When asked about it, Rory will say to the effect 'I know I can hit that shot and I’m here to hit great shots and win.'
I tend to call this the ‘skateboarder mentality.’ Each summer I’m amazed when watching the Summer X Games because of the various tricks, flips, etc. that these skateboarders pull off:
Watching videos like that one I always think ‘man, if they are only off by a hair, 'that could be the difference between them pulling off the spot or falling and breaking their face.'
Golf has that similarity to it. If you’re off by 1 degree or if you miss by 1 dimple, that could be the difference between a good shot or a terrible shot. The difference between landing it or breaking your face.
Here’s a Kelvin Miyahira video showing a skulled 8-iron. As Miyahira states:
"This is why golf is hard. Many think you have to hit the equator or above the equator ball in order to skull it. This club strikes only about a quarter of an inch too high and results in the leading edge compressing the ball creating the skulled shot."
Off by a quarter of 1 inch and you ‘break your face.’
What’s so beautiful about the skateboarder mentality is that they never seem to even consider being off. They have the mindset of this is the jump I’m going to make instead of worrying about the bad stuff that could potentially happen if they are a little off. As Dr. Bhrett McCabe says, 'your mind only works when you are fully engaged into what you want to happen.' And I believe that is in part what Rory McIlroy thinks…he’s fully engaged in what he wants to do instead of worrying about what potentially bad could happen. He’s making a jump and thinking about landing the jump instead of thinking about being a hair off and breaking his face.
So, if Tour players hit god awful shots, what separates them from the rest of golfers?
They hit far more good-to-great shots than the rest of the non-Tour golfers.
I’ve seen something like this happen countless times…
A Tour player hits it poorly for the first 6 holes and plays them at +4. Then they get on the 7th hole, a par-5, hit a great drive, a great 2nd shot and make a putt to make eagle. Then they hit a mediocre drive, followed by a great approach to 5-feet and make birdie. Then they hit it poorly on the 9th hole, but save par, and then they sink a 40-foot birdie putt and after 10-holes, they are back to even par.
If you just looked at the score, you would probably say 'this guy is playing decent.' But, if you watched him you would say that he looked awful out there and couldn’t believe how he somehow is playing at even par.
The awful shots have been there, but he hit enough great shots (the eagle on the 7th hole, the approach on the 8th hole and the 40-footer on the 10th hole) to get it back to even.
In essence, I feel that Rory’s mentality is so strong because he really doesn’t care about failing on a shot. If he does and it costs him a stroke…he can always make up for that later on. He may hit a great shot on the next shot and save par. Or he could hit a great shot on the next hole and get himself a birdie. And because he KNOWS he can pull off great shots if he takes an average pass at the ball, he goes out with that skateboarder mentality and hits those great shots.
Obviously, one has to know their limitations and understand the odds. Nobody expects skateboarders to make physically impossible jumps or even low-odds jumps just like Rory isn’t trying to carry water 300 yards long with a 3-wood.
But, Rory…and many other top-flight Tour players…simply do not let the potential of missing by a dimple or missing by 1 degree make them scared to even try a shot that they know if they ‘do their thing’ they can pull it off.