3 Things I learned from My First PGA Championship

It is a PGA Tour Major Championship, but in the end it’s just a game I’ve played thousands of times before.

1. Preparation

2017 PGA Championship JJ Wood Practice

Solid Pre Round Routine

In the month leading up to the PGA Championship, I worked hard on my mindset. I knew it would be an environment I had never experienced. I expected the first round tee shot to be the most nerve racking I had ever experienced. The day of the event, I arrived an extra 45 minutes earlier than I normally do. Some might think this is bad, I knew it was going to be important to slow myself down in the hours leading up to the first tee shot. With big events comes distractions and uncertainties, I didn’t want something unexpected to come up and make me feel rushed, adding to the performance anxiety that was naturally going to occur.

I practiced visualization & breathing patterns to prepare for this high pressure event. This is something I did regularly (3-4 times per week) as a full time player, but have not done it much now that I only play part time. The day of the first round I planned to listen to my breathing app for the entire warm up session. I figured if I had the app playing in my ear the entire warm up routine, it would be a constant reminder to focus on something positive that will create a calm, athletic mindset when the pressure is at it is highest.

This strategic plan turned out to be a great decision, as I felt the normal tension and nerves when I arrived at the first tee for the first round. These nerves provided me with comfort and familiarity. I knew I could handle the first tee shot like I had done in hundreds of tournaments before.

2. Play the Game

First Tee Shot Success
Depending on who you talk to – some would say it was terrible, I would say it was a success. Sure, it went 40 yards right into the trees, but I had 70 yards of room to the right and still be in play for the next shot with out penalty!

I wish i could say I had that success for the remaining 35 holes. Instead I played a different game than I usually do when I’m out with friends or playing in the South Texas PGA Section event. The goal when playing golf – is to play golf! I never realized there was a point of diminishing returns when it game to trust and commitment in your pre shot routine. Sure, you want to be fully committed to each shot, but you also want play strategically and error on the safe side of the target each shot.

I missed numerous times on the wrong side of the target causing me to hit it in the water on 2 occasions, and in a terrible spot in the trees causing me to make an 8 on the hole. This cost me 7 strokes that were purely due to terrible course management – typically my strength. Part of these errors were due to lack of experience on the big stage. I will learn from this next time and play my normal game. Remember, golf is a game of MISSES! It’s not always the guy that hits the most fairways and greens, typically its the SMARTEST golfer on the course that errors in the right direction.

3. Attention to Detail

Sitting on the range for 8 days with the best players in the world
One thing stood out, they are very strict with what and how they practice! Sure, some of them had their coaches with them, but when I watched the coach – they didn’t say much. Hitting balls next to Rory for nearly one hour and he did all the talking – not his coach! These players completely understand their game.

You’re probably thinking “well ya, they’re the best players in the world.” That is true, but how did they get there? Watching the same drills over and over, by Rory, Jordan, Rickie….. I didn’t see a drill that I don’t use regularly with the golfers at the academy. Eyeline, alignment stick, tees in the ground for putting, chalk line, pitch shots from various spots around the green. Seems simple right? Ask yourself, how many times do you hit balls without an alignment stick on the ground? How many times do you warm up your putting without doing the eyeline or pelz putting tutor to make sure your fundamentals are correct? If you can think of one time or more that you skipped those fundamental aspects when warming up – that’s too much!

I saw Adam Scott 3 days in a row on the putting green. Each time he did the same process of drills. I think you will find these pretty familiar and SIMPLE.

  1. Eyeline training aid from 5 feet
  2. Five footers with 4 balls at each quadrant around the hole. Make 4 in a row.
  3. One ball going through routine to different holes.

If he is making sure he does this each warm up during the major championship, don’t you think you should too??

Overall I found that there is nothing magical about these great golfers. They are not freaks of nature (well maybe Rory), but outside of the top 10 in the world, they are just above average talents, working hard on their simple process – EVERYDAY. QUIT EXPERIMENTING!

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