By Dr. Craig Davies
Presently we are between rounds on Saturday morning at the 2013 United States Open Championship at Merion Golf Club. As I sit on my treatment table and look through the leaderboard a number of interesting points can be identified.
1) If you look at the top 20 names on the leaderboard after the second round and compare their similarities and differences you will find one common trait; Their pre-tournament preparation.
Phil Mickelson did not get to Merion until the Thursday morning before he played. Hunter Mahan probably did the least practice area work he ever has before a major. Luke Donald, Steve Stricker, Charl Schwartzel, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Justin Rose played their normal pre-tournament holes but did not exhaust themselves on the practice area.
Conversely, if you look at some of the names at the bottom of the leader board after two rounds you will note players who were the last guys to leave the range Wednesday evening. Ueda, Tambellini, Harmon and Tsukada all closed the place down that night.
Why did one group choose to minimize their practice time and the other not? It is because the best player sin the world know that this is going to be a long challenging week that will require perseverance, patience and acceptance. All of these traits become easier to manifest when you are rested and much more difficult when you have been beaten up physically and mentally.
The take home message from this observation is that your skill sets need to be grooved prior to tournament week and your fine tuning and course tactics developed during days preceding the first round. Unfortunately, so many golfers still beat themselves up before every tournament, doesn’t matter if it is a junior event or a PGA Tour event, but those who consistently play the best each week are those who have done their homework before they arrived at the tournament course.
Dr. Troy Van Biezen (Zach Johnson, Ryan Palmer) and Craig Knight (Luke Donald and Justin Rose) provide their insight
2) Of the 73 players who made the cut at the US Open at least 59 of them utilize a physical coach on the road to help them with their movements. The number may be higher than 59 but I know at least 59 of them do. That’s 80.8% that definitely do. The reason so many of these players are successful and why such a high percentage of players use a body coach is because golf at the highest level is a physically demanding sport that often results in injury, or movement deficiency if not cared for properly.
If you look at the guys playing this week on the weekend you will notice there are very few players who you would look at and not think they were an athlete. Sure you still have the odd player on the PGA Tour who doesn’t care too much about their physical fitness but the number of events they are competitive in are few and far between. The days of the everyman golfer are pretty much done. There are many ways to improve your physical skill set depending on your motivation, starting point and available facility. This is why we have Eric Ah-Yuen (Robert Garigus and John Huh), Dave Darbyshire (Adam Scott and Nick Watney) and Jeff Wagner (Jason Dufner and Charlie Wi) providing their insight. All from different backgrounds and all train their clients differently but all have success. Read their sections to find out why.
Take home message from this observation is that if you want to play and be successful at the highest level in golf you should be consulting with someone who is competent and understands the demands of the sport.
3) At the highest levels of the game the sport is as demanding mentally as it is physically. When you are the first wave of the second round and are grinding it and trying to keep your score at 7 or 8 over par it is very easy to give in and count yourself out of the tournament. Many players would check themselves out of an event early when they look at the scoreboard and see themselves in 97th place. But those players, like Kevin Chappell, who are confident in their own skill set and have done their work before the round, knew that if they were grinding to finish at 8 over so would many of the other players. Instead of checking out and letting his score balloon Josh Teater kept his head in the game and finished at 8 over and find themselves playing the weekend and only 6 shots out of 10th on a tough demanding golf course where players can move up 40 spots on a Friday by not playing. Anything can happen going into the final three rounds but only for those players who were able to control their emotions and give themselves the opportunity to tackle Merion two more times.
Take home point from this observation: If you want to be a great player (at any level of play)you need to have the mental fortitude to grind out scores when you don’t have your best game technically or the course has teeth. Do what you need to do to sharpen this area of your skill set. Dr. Gio Valiante’s (Matt Kuchar and Justin Rose) new book Golf Flow and his segments that will be available over the next month should be mandatory reading.