Alexander Victor Schauffele, the rookie PGA Tour player known as Xander Schauffele carded a three-under 67 Sunday, finishing at 14-under par to win the 2017 Greenbrier Classic by one stroke ahead of Robert Streb. The 23-year-old started the final round three shots behind the leader Sebastian Munoz who had led since the first round. On the par-three 18th hole Xander finished strong by hitting his tee shot within three feet of the cup. He closed strong and got his first career win by sinking the winning birdie putt.
Xander had looked at the leaderboard in front of the 17th green and knew where he stood. He said he was “very nervous” when asked how he had felt just before sinking his final putt. Perhaps his nervousness was caused by thinking he had to sink the putt to win the tournament, or thinking about the $1.28M winner’s prize money, or moving up in the FedExCup standings, or the spots that would be earned in upcoming championships.
A three-foot putt is probably the easiest stroke in golf. It may be the simplest task in all sports. Golfers make it the most difficult by indecision and by thinking fearful thoughts. There is very little movement of the putter back and forth to go wrong in a 3-foot putt. When a golfer’s mind chatter takes over, that is where golf becomes a “mental game.” Because a short putt is such an easy stroke, you think you are supposed to make it. The fear thought of missing and the resultant public embarrassment is what makes it so difficult.
It was interesting to listen to the sports announcers in the booth at the Greenbrier describing the action. Because they were detached from the action, they were able to verbalize what Zander needed to be thinking. They said he should be congratulating himself and feeling good about the great shot he had hit close and for the opportunity to make birdie instead of thinking about what the result might mean.
In a tournament situation you have to train your mind not to think in the future. You have to relax, trust your training and allow your body to Just Do It like you have done hundreds of times before. Xander was aware of his anxiety and said, “I felt very nervous late in the round. I just tried to go back to the basics; close my eyes and take some deep breaths.” It worked.
Keys to overcome nervousness and stay focused on making short putts:
- Practice 2-3 foot putts until you know you can make them every time.
- Let go thinking about what missing/making means to you.
- Change your emotions from nervous and anxious to calm, relaxed, fearless by taking deep breaths.
- Rehearse the putt in your mind until it is very clear.
- Focus on the line that maximizes your chances of making the putt.
- Trust your stroke to roll the ball on the line.
- Use the same preshot routine every time.
- Remember that you really love to putt more than the result.
Good putters don’t spend time thinking about missing. They only remember the good putts they made that build their confidence.
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“THE HEART OF GOLF, Access Your Supreme Intelligence for Peak Performances” explores and explains negative emotions such as fear and performance anxiety, the four Cs of mind blockage, the four progressive stages of learning the supreme intelligence of the heart, and the way to access the zone in a competition. It is a player’s guide for developing your true inner self by returning to the joy and love of self instead of seeking praise and rewards from the outside world.