Golf Talk With Greg Holman – #40

Click play to listen to Greg’s Podcast, or read below.

Xander Schauffele just won the biggest tournament of his career and he didn’t make a penny. He won an individual gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Golf is not new to Olympic competition. It was featured in 1900 and 1904 and discontinued until 2016 when Justin Rose of Great Britain took home the gold. Matt Kuchar won the bronze medal in 2016. In Women’s Golf, Inbee Park of South Korea won a gold in 2016 with Lydia Ko from New Zealand capturing silver and China’s Shanshan Feng taking bronze. The individual Women’s Golf will be competed starting Thursday for this year.

Qualification for golf in the Olympics is based on the official world golf ranking, with the top 15 of each gender automatically placed in the field (with a limit of four per country) and then the highest ranked players from countries that had not already qualified two players.

In Men’s play this year Austria’s Sepp Straka took the first round lead with a 63 of his own to go with a 68 the first day. Xander shot a third round 68 to give him a one shot lead going into the final round. Nine players were within four shots of the lead as play began Saturday. Xander was a little shaky on the last day (Saturday) before sinking a pressure 4-foot putt for par on the 72nd hole to edge out Rory Sabbatini of Slovakia by one shot. There was a 7-way playoff for third before Pan Cheng-Tsung of China became the last man standing to win the bronze medal.

That brings us to our golf tip of the day: handling pressure.

I’ve certainly never been under the kind of pressure that Schauffele must have felt on the back nine Saturday playing for his Country but anybody that has played on a golf team has felt pressure to perform so as not to let the team down. We didn’t have sports Psychologists on the high school and college level when I played but I always felt more pressure before the round. Once I hit the first drive I was usually able to play under control.

I only remember hitting a bad drive on the first hole a handful of times in team competition. Our #1 man my freshman year topped his ball off the first tee almost every time. I vowed not to do that. I teed the ball a little higher than normal for that first shot. The last thing I wanted to do was hit a grounder. Also, a high trajectory shot will not roll sideways like a low hook or slice, so it’s kind of a defensive shot. I also take deep breaths and don’t allow a longer driver to psyche me out. I’ll turn the tables and compliment his long drive. Sometimes I’m able to get in his head that way. I always prided myself in good course management. I learned that from my golf teacher at the age of 12. Choke up just a little on the narrow holes and hit the driver to avoid losing too much distance.

Another good way to get into your opponent’s head is the trash can par. I played so much golf when I was young I expected to make a par from anywhere. Sometimes I was able to punch the ball on the green from the trees, or blast in the hole from a sand trap, or sink a 30-footer for the par. Don’t give up. You may hole the next shot. That was my way of thinking. When you don’t have your A-game, a good short game can save you. Keep getting up and down and soon your long-hitting opponent begins to think he can’t beat you. Always be a good sport, win or lose. I have life-long golf friends by keeping that attitude.

Hit ’em straight!