Matt Wolff, the young phenom with the odd swing is in a funk. His mom says it’s a pattern: when he plays great, he’s all smiles and hail hearties; but when he plays badly, he withdraws into some dark places. And lately, Matt Wolff has be playing really badly. He blamed one round and his withdrawal on a hand injury, but he had no hand injury. It was more a brain injury, not in a physical sense, but an emotional one. It was lousy thinking that most of us experience from time to time playing this daunting game, this game that can cause grown men and women from either throwing tantrums more befit of a three year old, or retreating into a near suicidal depression.
So what can Matt (and some of the rest of us)do? Well, at the risk of being accused of blatant self-promotion, read my book, The Mindful Golfer: How to Lower your Handicap While Raising your Consciousness. One of my main themes is to learn to let go of bad shots and move on, an example of which I once played two sweet shots on a par 5, getting me within a wedge of the green, then proceeded to hit my approach over the green, badly fluff my chip, partly skull the next chip twenty feet past the cup, and two putt for a double bogey. After thinking bird or par, I was pissed–really pissed to the point of steaming. I then went to the next hole, a 120 yard par 3, with its usual headwind blowing strong in my face, pulled a nine iron, cleared my mind, made a nice strike, and after one bounce, into the cup it went. High-fiving my friend and playing companion David Tabb, I walked to the hole and plucked it out in disbelief. The disastrous double bogey had faded away with all the other dirtbags of history. And therein lies the lesson for Matt Wolff and all of us who have let a bad shot or two ruin a round and beyond.
The game has the capacity to rip your ego, your confidence, to shreds…if you let it. It’s the classic devil on one shoulder and better angel on the other. It’s up to you as to who you listen to. And that’s a major message I was trying to convey in my book. God knows, I’ve had to remind myself many times of my own message, especially lately as my body tries to adjust to the rigors of chemotherapy and heart failure. But as long as that body is at least capable of standing up there and swinging a golf club, whatever its condition, it’s a game where the mind is its greatest obstacle to success.
It’s a habit for most of us–this holding on to negative thoughts and feelings, letting them affect our subsequent moments, minutes, days, years, indeed, careers. For even a chastisement from teacher in the third grade could affect a person years later. So first, we need to become aware that the pattern has been triggered. Then we need to tell ourselves something my Buddhist teachers always said: All things arise and pass away. That includes feelings, thoughts, actions, clouds, pain, a day, the night, the sunset. Whatever. Our job, and it’s not an easy one, is to allow them all to pass away without further thought or judgement. If I had retained the thought of that double bogey on the next tee, seething at the memory of it, I don’t think I could have summoned the concentration needed to pull off that hole-in-one next swing.
Changing any habit takes awareness, perseverance, and work–hard work that may take time. It may take the acknowledgement that we need help. Certainly drug or alcohol addictions are examples. I’ve used meditation practice, psychotherapy, self help books, golf teaching pros to help change bad habits and replace them with good ones. I’ve learned to trust more that good angel and ignore the devil.
I feel bad for Matt Wolff. I really do know how he feels. But it’s never too late to catch hold of the moment, hold it up for inspection, observe it closely, make changes, and let that moment go. Like life, a round of golf goes on…without pause. And if you don’t go on with it, it will bulldoze you over.
So Matt, read my book. No guarantees, but it may help you get through this funk and get back to being the great player you are. I’m pulling for you, young man.
Looks like Tiger will get past this injury, at least so he’ll be able to horse around with his kids again. As for golf, it’s really impossible to know right now. Hogan recovered after his horrendous accident but he was quite a bit younger, I believe. I certainly wish the best for Tiger with his arduous road to recovery. If anyone can get through this, it’s him.
But how the hell did this accident happen? In broad daylight, 7 A.M., in good weather, he crossed a median strip into the opposing lane went over an embankment, flipping his car several times, apparently without braking all that time, and ultimately not remembering how he got there. The police said he wasn’t impaired. To me, it sounds like he fell asleep. And if so, why?
I like Tiger and highly value what he has given to the game. I would just like to know the whole story.