I rewatched the final round of The 2019 Masters over the last week, and I noticed something very clear. The announcers make every single shot seem so vitally important. Like the entire tournament hangs on the balance of every shot.
While every shot is truly important, and Tiger’s final score of 275 is of course made up of all those individual shots. But at the same time, Tiger’s score of 275 is made up of two hundred seventy five shots! So when the announcers make it seem like THIS ONE 8 IRON IS THE MOST IMPORTANT SHOT OF THE TOURNAMENT it’s probably more out of dramatic effect than anything.
But we all watch these tournaments. We definitely all watch The Masters. And we hang on to the edge of our seats for each shot. It’s tv. They’ve got to sell commercials. They have to keep the viewer glued. But for you as the player you have to do everything in your power to lower the importance of each shot. Because as we know that when you are trying to gain something out of a transaction it makes you nervous. So lowering importance of something makes you care less about what you can gain, and therefore allows you to be less nervous.
So how do you lower the importance of each shot? “This is a U.S. Open Qualifier! What do you mean lower the importance?!” In order to lower importance and therefore reduce (and even eliminate) nerves, you have to break down what it takes into smaller and smaller parts. The smaller the activity that you have to do the easier it is, and therefore the less nervous you will be about accomplishing it.
What’s easier: attempting to hit 275 really good shots, and trying your hardest to hit all 275 perfect? Or hitting one shot to the best of your ability, and only focusing on that one shot? Well, the second option. It is of course easier to pour your focus into one shot than into 275 shots. Yes, at the end of the tournament, you will have poured your focus into 275 shots, but in the meantime all you cared about was that one shot.
So your job is to figure out how to best focus on just that one shot. How will you think before the shot? Will you worry about past shots? Hope that you don’t miss this shot? Try to reenact your swing lesson from 2 weeks ago? Or will you know what to expect of yourself, know that you can’t magically elevate your game in an instant, know that your practice is for practice time and playing is for playing time? How will you think during the shot? Will you get distracted? Will you change up your preshot routine because the moment feels different to you? Or will you stick with what you’ve practiced and trust that your routine is solid? And how will you think after the shot? Will you get mad and frustrated that you didn’t hit a good one? Will you second guess your decision? Will you begin trying to figure out your swing because it felt off on that one? Or will you accept the outcome with no judgement? Will you write down your stats so you know your strengths and weaknesses, and therefore know what to practice later?
How you think before, during, and after will determine the importance you put on that shot. By hoping and fearing you don’t hit a bad one you introduce the importance of the result. By only focusing on your routine you remove the importance of the result. By letting distractions change your process, you give the moment importance. By sticking to the same process you’ve always had, no matter the pressure, you tell the moment it’s just like any other moment. By getting frustrated with the result of the shot and attempting to correct it, you give the outcome importance. By accepting the shot for what it is and committing to future practice and simply moving on, you take the importance away from the outcome that just happened.
You can see how you can make intentional decisions during every part of the round that lower importance, and therefore change the way you interpret nerves.
Break down the individual parts of the process of hitting a good shot. Be deliberate about how you interpret each moment you’re in. Choose to stick to your process.