The Jordan Spieth of golf and knowing you need a mental golf game
Jordan Spieth summarized his final-round mindset of the British Open and the awareness and process of his mental golf game to set himself up for success.
He said, “I was questioning why I couldn’t just perform the shots that I was before. And sometimes you just can’t really figure it out or put your finger on it. ‘Am I pulling it? Pushing it? Am I doing both? What’s going on with the stroke?’ It’s just searching. And during the round today, I definitely thought while any kind of fear or advantage that you can have in this moment over other individuals, not just Matt Kuchar today, but other people that are watching, that’s being taken away by the way that I’m playing right now. And that was really tough to swallow. And that kind of stuff goes into your head. I mean, we walked for two minutes, three minutes in between shots. And you can’t just go blank. You wish you could, but thoughts creep in (Golf, July 23, 2017).”
Is it impossible?
Spieth began the final round of the British Open with a three-shot lead over Matt Kuchar, his playing partner. He would soon lose that lead, ending the front-nine in 37, with Kuchar’s even-par 34.
The back nine was unforgettable and almost unbelievable. After his drive on 13, Spieth went about 60 yards offline but found a way to dig in to make some amazing shots for the win. “Anybody who has ever played this mind-numbing game, at any level, knows that once things start going south, it is just about impossible to dig deep and find answers and make the swings you want and need to make (Golf, July 23, 2017).”
For those of you who play golf, Spieth’s back-nine play may have seemed like a miracle or luck. The fact is, it’s neither of those. Clearly, Spieth has worked on his mental game and is able to realize when he’s in his head and headed south, but has developed the ability to bring himself back to center.
Similar to developing a great game of golf, mental development doesn’t just happen, for Spieth, or any golfer. An athlete must learn how to deal with the up and down moments and the quiet between shots where the only loud sounds come from what’s going on in your head. Unfortunately, some athletes don’t have the ability to dig in and recover. This is one of many reasons Spieth is, the golfer he is. He is the champion.
Chewing gum or chewing on his mental golf game?
There’s been speculation about the relief and benefits Spieth derives from chewing gum on the course. While there has been a fair amount of research done and articles written on the use of chewing gum to alleviate stress, anxiety, and tension, most of the research doesn’t definitively correlate peak performance with gum chewing. I’d say that there are some benefits to it. There is something comforting about chewing gum. It can alleviate stress. It can also distract you from getting too technical and overanalyzing. It can be the element you need to refocus.
And if you can believe it, there has also been speculation about whether or not the flavor of gum has an impact on performance. It is also common knowledge that peppermint flavor is known to have a calming effect but there is less evidence of this.
Awareness of your mental training plan
Chewing gum does seem to have a positive impact for some. Does this mean you should do it? Absolutely not! Gum chewing is not for everyone and it may not even produce a calming effect for you. That doesn’t mean don’t give it a try.
More importantly is Spieth’s ability to realize when he’s in his head and headed south, but has developed the ability to bring himself back to center. You can also develop this ability and the awareness of what is happening in your mind. The final round at the British Open was a prime example of the importance of a mental training plan. All golfers need a way to switch on their champion prior to a round, to develop a pre-shot routine to keep them away from thinking over the ball, and a way to deal with the two or three minutes in between shots. Those are the primary targets for your brain (ego) to get technical and overanalyze.
Spieth wouldn’t have ended up in a precarious situation on the back-nine if he had been able to originally keep his head in the game and keep his head in his mental golf game. Bottom line is, he didn’t forget how to play golf, fear kicked in and he lost focus but this is what makes him human and his mental golf game fascinating.