I had someone who doesn't know me personally look at my performance recently for the second time in my golf career. Even though I knew what to expect, it was still like a smack in the face.
You always know you need to improve on something, but it's so easy to rationalize away your own shortcomings: "I was just having a bad day. The course was in a crappy condition. I would have played better if only..." It's quite different for someone else to point to data that prove you're consistently making the kind of errors that bring your game down.
A rep from Titleist (my club company) looked over months of my performance data back in early May. He looked at all of my finishes and stats like ball speed, driving distance, greens and regulations, and putts per round, just to name a few. The conclusion: My putting needed some work.
I'll be honest, it was not fun. The first time he analyzed my performance, I thought, "This guy doesn't even like me." He told me repeatedly that if I could just putt better, I'd get on the PGA Tour. As though it were that easy. He was all about the numbers and not afraid to hurt my feelings. It's a little hard for the ego to take, especially when you're used to having people validate you and try to make you feel better. A lot of guys on Tour won't even look at their numbers and that's probably why.
But that's exactly why these quarterly reviews are so important. Once I got over my ego, I realized that my stats actually show me how close -- or in some cases how far away -- I am to being as good as I know I can be. It's a huge dose of reality. It's not the opinion of my coach or my sports psychologist, both of whom know how to pump me up when I need it. It's the way my performance looks in black and white.
Since putting was holding me back, my Titleist rep and I looked at my trends on the green. Ultimately, it came down to things like inconsistencies in my strokes on specific types of putts and where my eyes look as I putt, which in turn affected my alignment and ball speed. Based on the feedback, I worked on those two things as much as I could.
Here's why I'm convinced that analyzing my numbers is not just an exercise, it's essential to my whole career: Before the analysis, I had been ranked 121st on tour and putting. About six to eight weeks afterward, I moved up to 39th. In terms of my overall performance, that meant I moved from 62nd on the Money List to 35th. Ten spots and eleven tournaments to go before I qualify for the PGA Tour...
(Empty green photo courtesy of Flickr/ LeoAlmighty.)