Taking over five hours, with time between shots and holes, golf requires mental focus, perhaps more than any other sport. From three-foot putts to irons over water to drives down tight fairways, you need to stay focused to insure all your relevant body parts are in sync with your brain’s neurons; for anything out of sync in golf spells possible disaster. You can have the sweetest swing but if your mind drifts to say, your late rent payment, that sweet swing could well turn sour.
Phil Mickelson showed us how that is done with his historic win at this year’s PGA, his sixth major in an extraordinary career. At 50, he is the oldest player to ever win a major. And what did Phil show us about mental focus?
- Keep your pace steady and relatively slow throughout the round, which includes the way you walk from shot to shot. It helps keep that heart beat even, avoiding those spikes in adrenalin that can so knock your swing out of sync.
- Do some meditation before you take your stance. Phil noticeably took a couple of deep breaths. He closed his eyes as he visualized each shot. He made contact with the adoring crowd, but only up to a certain point. He avoided conversation with his opponent, especially as he approached the next shot.
- After a wayward shot, he quickly put it behind him, and proceeded to figure out his next strategy. His brother and caddy was a great help here, reminding him to stay focused and, that overall, he was doing well. Phil represented the epitome of patience.
- Because of proper physical conditioning and medical treatment (remember, he still suffers from a painful form of arthritis!), Phil trusted his ability to succeed. He thought he could win, but never focused on that outcome. His focus remained on the shot at hand, and, all of us, can particularly benefit from that advise. We are all ultimately in charge of our own minds and thoughts.
A mindful golfer (and I declare Phil The Mindful Golfer of the Year!) trains his or her mind to stay present, emotionally unburdened by the immediate past (Koepka was burdened by his mistakes, which affected his putting, in particular). A mindful golfer knows that each shot in golf is, at its core, mutually exclusive of the next shot. If you’re in the woods, take your medicine, get back in play, and proceed shot by shot, as required. No tears . No tangles. This hole may be a double; but the next could be an ace (as happened to me once!). Or, like Phil, you land in a bunker, like on the 5th, and hole the bunker shot! (which was a game changer).
So what sort of golfer are you? I hope a mindful one. Congrats, Phil; and next month, at Torrey Pines, a course you know well, I hope you finally nail down that U.S Open, a title that has eluded you as it has other greats of the past. You share a birthday with Old Tom Morris, so let his spirit guide you every inch, every shot, every step of the way.
And I can’t resist saying, Old Guys Rule!