June 20, 2014

Martin Kaymer’s wire to wire victory at the U.S. Open was the best golf I have witnessed in a very long time.

Kaymer brought the “Rough Free” Pinehurst #2 to its knees by holing several putts and hitting several well executed golf shots but it was his consistent level of emotion that impressed me the most. Kaymer was masterful at what I believe to be the most difficult goal in golf to achieve–Resolution #4: “Play Without Emotion.”

Of all the controllable golf resolutions I have previously written about, “Playing Without Emotion” is the most difficult to accomplish, especially in a competitive tournament or match. When there is something at stake, emotions can easily overwhelm you and take you away from the present moment. Whether you hit good shots or bad shots most of us have an automatic emotional response to every shot we play and these emotional responses can be detrimental to our game.

Peak performance is reached at a medium level of emotional intensity which is different for each person. There is no exact formula for your ideal level of emotional intensity. You have to feel it intuitively for yourself. You may not be able to describe what that level of intensity is for you, personally, but I assure you that your peak level is not too high or too low. I often see amateur golfers beat themselves up and judge almost every shot they hit. Bob Rotella said it best, “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect. The sooner you accept the results of every shot you hit the easier it will be for you to get ready for the next shot. Learn to be mindful of your emotions, this is a constant practice and takes commitment to observing yourself.”

I am a big fan of quantum physics and fascinated by the power that exists in all of us, that amazing space that lives within, and is part of every thought we have. This is the same space that has the knowledge and power to pump our blood, digest our food, and ultimately, the source that allows us to accomplish anything in life. This space is referenced by many names: energy, the source, the observer, the Holy Spirit. The list goes on and on. It is this small but powerful space that we must rely on to continually allow us to manage our emotional state on a shot for shot basis. This space gives us the confidence to play our best and stay in the present moment, and helps us find that peak level of emotion that many call “The Zone.”

I was one of the 10,000+ people to enter the U.S. Open qualifier in May looking for a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream to play in a major championship. I posted a 71 at Missoula Country Club and missed the playoff to advance by 2 strokes. Competition is why I play golf and these competitive events give me the opportunity to practice and grade my four Golf Resolutions. At the Qualifier, I arrived with an internal Mantra to “Have a Calm Heart and Self Control.” This thought helped me monitor my emotional state for most of the day. Looking back I give myself an “A-” for Golf Resolutions #1-#3. I definitely “Had Fun” (Golf Resolution #1), I like to think I had the most fun on the course that day. I also felt I excelled at “Committing to the Shot in Front of Me” (Golf Resolution #2), and “Executing My Pre-Shot Routine” (Golf Resolution #3). Unfortunately, it was the fourth goal, “Playing Without Emotion” that did not go as planned.

During the qualifier, the players in my group struggled for a few holes early, and my emotions started to lead me to believe that we were falling behind and out of position. I began to get an emotional charge and thought we were going to be put on the clock. Over a six hole stretch, holes #8 – #13, I let that emotional charge take me out of the present moment, and I felt myself speeding up. Ultimately, during that stretch of holes, I made two costly bogeys that turned out to be the two shots I needed back. I was disappointed that I did not advance, but excited that I had the opportunity to put my resolutions to work and grow from the mistakes I made.

In the U.S. Open, Martin Kaymer demonstrated the calm focus that I strive for when I play. He didn’t hit every shot perfect. If you asked him, he would probably say he hit very few perfect shots, but he did play within himself, and it was very obvious he found that peak level of emotional intensity that allowed him to get the most out of his game and become the U.S. Open Champion. If you want to play your best, I suggest you work hard on managing your emotional state every time you play. I assure you only good things can happen when you do.

U.S. Open Comment –“Where Was the Rough?”

I loved watching the U.S. Open, but have to admit that I was disappointed in the absence of rough at this year’s Championship. When I think U.S. Open I think firm greens and thick rough and this U.S. Open felt more like a British Open to me. I love what the USGA does, and how they do it, but I think they missed the mark by taking thick grass away from this Major.

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