As I watched the final round of The Players Championship, I was reminded of an important lesson about playing competitive golf. As Lee Westwood struggled in most areas of his game, he demonstrated a moxie that should inspire most players. I watched him hit poor shots, then respond with clutch recovery shots. He hit his ball into the pond or a sand trap only to respond by working his magic to reduce the damage. Westwood showed that as a professional golfer, actually any golfer, it is important to never stop grinding during a challenging round.
If you are wondering if Westwood’s efforts were worth anything; his birdie on the 18th hole to take sole second place was worth $500,000 USD. He actually won $800,000 more than third place, but after sharing the monies equally if he did not make the birdie, the difference was a half a million dollars. But that is the financial side of playing golf at the highest levels of professional golf.
So, why is it important for amateurs to take a page out of Westwood’s play manual and continue to grind it out after a very poor start. The most obvious aspect of grinding out a round would be pride (ego). But, it is more than than; responding to a terrible start helps train our mind to respond positively to challenging times on the links. We train ourselves that anything is possible from any swing and at any given time our fortunes can change. I have had rounds of golf where I shot 4 over on the front and 4 over on the back. The drastic difference is that I kept playing and my fortunes changed.
As you are reading this article, I bet the first question that comes to mind is: What actually does ‘grind’ mean in golf? For me it is very simple concept, it means staying disciplined and stay focused on our swing, course management, and positive mental processes. This is a very challenging thing to do when times are good, but when we are struggling it is an understatement to say it is a tremendous challenge. When my rounds are faltering, I revert to processes where I almost become an automaton. I let my practice, experience and engrained swing processes take over. I focus on being positive, mentally because this is where my ‘grind’ is rooted. This might sound easy, but pushing the negative thoughts out of my mind when I am playing poorly is difficult at best; this is where my pre-shot routines play a big role in my successes. Grinding is following my swing processes when things are not going well.