Walking to the first tee is always daunting for some players. It can be the dreaded walk of shame depending on if anyone is watching. Starting strong is very important and for many it is the make or break shot that sets up their entire round.
On many an occasion, I have striped the ball down the center of the fairway to only struggle for the rest of the round. Contrary to that situation, I have struggled off the first tee and scored very low.
If you had a choice, would your rather start or finish strong?
I remember playing is the Military Regional Tournament in Kingston, Ontario, about 20 years ago. It was when I was less confident in my game, but it was steadily improving. To reach this tournament, I played to make our team (by shooting my first sub-par round) and by dumb luck, I scored well enough to be the captain of our team.
As captain, I was paired with the other team captains and we were to hit first at the Regional Tournament. As it turned out, I was the first to hit; needless to say, my nerves spiked and I was not sure hitting first was going to be a great idea!
As I stood over the ball, I think I was blind. I could not focus and felt as if I was going to pass out. It was the worst case of nerves I have had when playing golf. At the time, I was certain I was not going to be able to hit the ball. And as I envisioned, I topped the ball 75 yards off the tee! I felt so embarrassed.
As I gathered myself and walked off the tee, I smile at my team and said I will see you in 4 hours. Approaching my ball, I started to calm down and gather myself. With the pressure of the first tee over, I pulled out my three wood and hit a pure shot on to the green. I was 65 feet away, but I had a strong chance to salvage par. Standing over my putt, I took my aim and hoped I would have a short putt for par.
After taking a deep breath, I stroke a perfect shot and sunk the putt! I was shocked and the playing partners, I think, were even more shocked. Well, my round started off very poorly, but in two strokes I was riding a strong wave of confidence!
As it turned out, I shot a 75 and was tied for 3rd after the first day. Throughout the round, I felt that no matter what happened, I was going to respond positively and keep my score low. I only encountered on other shot I wish I could have back, but my mental confidence came to me rescue and I walked away with a bogey. Overall, my round was one of my best that week and it lead me to finishing 3rd over all.
I can recount many stories that just the opposite happens. I start strong and finish poorly. I find these rounds more frustrating than anything. This year, for example, I was 2 under standing on the 18th tee only to double bogey it. I finished with a par, but my weak finish robbed me of shooting under par!
From my stories, you can probably surmise that I like to finish strong. Having a quick start is helpful, but sustaining any momentum down the stretch is critical to low scores. It is something I work at by grinding out many challenging rounds. Success breeds success!
What do you think, is it more important to start or finish strong?
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!