For the past week, the topic of conversation at the United States Golf Academy has been Tom Watson’s remarkable 2nd place finish in the recent British Open. As I watched the event unfold, I must admit I was excited, but not really surprised. I am old enough to remember that Tom Watson is and has always been a great player and just because he is older he has not forgotten what it takes to win a golf tournament, especially, a British Open. There are some very clear lessons that all of us can take from his play.
Have a Plan – All week long during the interviews Watson spoke of his “plan” and sticking to it. I won’t pretend to tell you what I think it was, but I do know the following.
1. He knew the golf course. How many times have you played a course you know and hit a shot in a position that makes the hole much more difficult? Not because your miss hit the shot, but because you weren’t paying attention. Every golf hole ever built has a “best way” for you to play the hole and it is not always the most direct or shortest route.
2. He accepts the ups and downs of playing links golf. Watson, probably better than anyone in the field, knew he would get good breaks and bad breaks during the four days of the tournament. The secret to playing well is to not let down when you get a good break and make a great score, and just as important is to not let a bad break ruin your round.
3. Find the strength in your golf game and play to it. All of us have parts of our game that are better than others. For Watson it has always been his ability to hit the ball in the middle of the clubface. This ability to hit the ball with solid contact reduces his need to alter his trajectory in bad weather. So he doesn’t need to change his swing in bad weather. He just accounts for the wind and chooses the club that will fly a specific distance. What are your strengths? Create a plan that plays to your strengths and avoids your weaknesses and keep playing until the round is over. You might surprise some people like Tom Watson did.