Mental Keys to Going Low
In the early 90s, I interviewed several PGA and LPGA Tour pros about their mental game of golf and career low rounds. I wanted to learn more about what players think to shoot a career low score. Shortly after that I wrote a book called Going Low.
If you watched the 2013 BMW Championship, you know Jim Furyk joined the “59 club” shooting 59 in the second round. I checked the post-round interview to see what Furyk was thinking…
Furyk knew after his first nine that it could be a special day since he never shot 28 before. “I’ve never shot 28 before to start with, so it was an exciting day, and it kind of dawned on me at the turn that it only takes 4‑under on the front, which doesn’t seem too far out of reach to break the barrier of 60,” said Furyk.
What was his mindset for his second nine, or in this case, the front side? He decided to forget about his first nine and focus on the second nine only. “I wasn’t going to count that I had to get to 12‑under. I was just going to go try to play the front nine and shoot as low as I could.”
The challenge when you are going low is to not be score conscious and project a possible score. Most golfers go into protect mode when they have a low round in the making. They begin to hold on and play defensively, not wanting to back up and give shots away.
What helped distract him from the fact he had a chance to shoot 59? He talked football with his playing partner. “I actually quit thinking about trying to shoot 59 there for a few minutes, which was a good thing, really.”
A lot of things must happen to shoot 59. The putts lip in. The ball bounces closer to the hole on approach shots. You feel momentum. You get some great breaks. And of course, you’re knocking down the pin every hole. “It really was a mental battle and a mental grind. I’m still scratching my head a little bit, 12‑under for a round of golf. We get on a roll once in a while, and every shot I hit today seemed to turn out pretty good for the most part.”
When going low, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself and get out of your normal routine. The excitement or adrenaline you feel can cause you to speed up your routine or make hasty decisions. Furyk and his caddie, Fluff, tried to keep the same pace…
“I think Fluff’s style when things are going good, is just being himself, doing the same thing we always do, going through the same routine, and that’s what I try to think of when I’m playing. Sometimes we can get quick, sometimes we can start making decisions fast,” Furyk said.
He prefers that his caddie does not try to pump him up. Rather, he prefers to stay the course as if it’s just another round of golf. “So he didn’t give me the oh, let’s knock this one in or knock this stiff or really any pep talk. That’s not really my style. I’m not a rah‑rah, cheer‑me‑up, pump‑me‑up type of person. I want him to be the same way, and that’s his normal style anyway.”
Jim Furyk’s Mental Keys to Going Low
- Stick to your normal preshot routine and demeanor.
- When the adrenaline kicks in, avoid rushing your shots and making quick decisions.
- If you shoot a crazy low score on the front, put it behind you and go play the back as if you are even par.
- Distract yourself from the “no-hitter” in the making. Talk with your playing partners and take the focus away from score or a final number.
- Keep playing aggressive golf and don’t go on defense and protect.
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