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"What's in Your Head?"

Updated: Jan 23, 2019

Watching Adam Long play the 18th on Sunday at the Desert Classic at La Quinta, California and hit such an amazing shot. I was struck again by the Tour players’ ability to play under such pressure.

A relative unknown aiming to win his first PGA tour event at only his 5th attempt, playing in the final group with Phil Mickelson and Adam Hadwin, Long looked unfazed. Phil is, well, Phil and Hadwin has been there and done it too. It didn't seem to matter.

Long’s shot, a 174 yard 6-Iron from a side hill lie, with the ball around 8 inches below his feet with a pond left and the gallery right, would’ve troubled most, even on a quiet weekend outing. I’d love to know what was going through the 31 year old’s mind. He showed poise and executed perfectly.

As with much of the commentary on the modern game, there was little talk of his state. They gave us a sense of what his intention was, taking the 6 instead of 7 and aiming for a ¾ swing. They also talked in brief about the potential pitfalls of the heel catching and sending it left or just bailing out and cutting it way right. As it was, he hit a beauty and then knocked in the 14 footer to claim his maiden win at this level.

It seems that the vast majority of comment and discussion that surrounds the Tours is centered on the players’ technical ability and the equipment they use. Within hours of an event, appears the ‘What’s in the bag?” piece in the mainstream golf media and every technical statistic of his round is published across the board. What is perpetually lacking is anything to do with his thought process and how he was able to win. I’d love it if the media ran with, “What’s in his head?” instead of his bag.

Of course, to hit the shot he did require skill and reliable clubs. The vagueness remains however, as to what he put his focus on and what internal language he used, to give him the best chance of success? You’ll hear it said, the best don’t think of anything during the shot, but what about just prior to it?

For the sake of the struggling amateur golfers, I’d love the industry to develop more focus on these aspects of the game. A weekly article asking the winners to share their mental processes could begin to give us all an insight in to peak performance and surviving under pressure.

It’s obvious that the commentators can’t “see” what’s going on internally. So, it’s only natural that most comment is focused solely on what can be seen. Swing mechanics and club choices are tangible and visible. It’s the intangibles that continue to fascinate.

Just a thought.

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