Why I Approach Every Shot on the PGA the Same Way

Last Updated Apr 21, 2011 12:19 PM EDT

On Sunday, I had my second-best finish thus far on the PGA Tour: 11th place. That was after I bounced around on the leaderboard all weekend (from 15th place to 25th to 17th to 40th -- I was even tied for first place at one point but that was early in the day). Moving up from 40th to 11th felt good -- but it didn't at all surprise me.

I realize from the spectator's point of view, it can look like even the best golfers are at the mercy of luck and circumstances a lot of the time. But that's not actually how we see it. There are always factors you can't control, like bad tee times, rain, or the 30 mile-per-hour winds last weekend in San Antonio.

But there's a lot you can control, which means a pro golfer for the most part should not be surprised by his game. I never am and that's, in part, because I'm like a one-trick pony. Shot after shot, I follow the same process. It's simple and if I execute it correctly, I get the results I want.

I wasn't always this methodical about my game -- it's something my sports psychologist introduced. My first year as a pro when I was playing the Hooters Tour, I didn't have a sports psychologist. I told myself that I'd give it one year on my own and if it didn't work, then I'd look into getting one.

Well, that first year was awful. Every day I'd walk off the course disappointed and frustrated, and I'd undervalue my accomplishments. By the end of the year, I knew that I was holding myself back, so I got connected with Dr. Rob Bell through a friend of a friend.

It took a few months of working together but finally we came up with a strategy that works for me: Every time I play, I set a "process" goal and an "outcome" goal; if I achieve my process goal, then I know the outcome will take care of itself.

Here's how it works in practice: My process goal for the Valero Open last weekend was to commit to good targets, meaning, aim my shots in a smart way and not second-guess my judgment. I can drive the ball long, so If I can combine that with precise aim, then I play well.

Going into the last day of the tournament, I was ranked 40th on the leaderboard -- I knew I could do better than that. I had nothing to lose, so I decided I'd go out there with the intent to shoot the lowest round of the whole tournament. Even when I decide to take risks and play aggressively, the way I did on Sunday, the process is still the same: Commit to a good target and do what I do best. (Only this time around, my targets were a little more aggressive than normal.)

It worked. I hit the lowest round and moved up to tie for 11th place.

For me, this is the only way to survive out there. I can't make good decisions if I'm making them based on my emotions or on what everyone else is doing. I take both of those factors out of the decision-making process. And it works.

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