This isn't something I would normally be writing about, but I thought it was an interesting aspect of how mindset affects golfers.
Thursday morning I saw Paul Azinger on ESPN2's Mike & Mike in the Morning show. He was on to plug his new book, Cracking the Code, about how the Navy Seals pod system he used helped the Americans win the Ryder Cup. What I found so interesting was how Azinger chose the Ryder Cup team. As you may remember, Azinger asked for (and got) 8 automatic qualifiers and 4 Captain's choices. No big deal there.
Zinger used one of his choices to pick Steve Stricker, then grouped his 9 players into three 3-man groups. (Those are the pods, in case you're a bit slow today.) Again, no big deal.
Here's what I found so interesting: Zinger promised his players that he would not break up their pods when he set up the pairings, then gave them all a list of about 6 guys that he thought were playing pretty well... and let each 3-man pod pick their 4th member without any further input from him.
Isn't that just a radical idea? Zinger says the pods are still playing practice rounds together now, two years after the event, by their own choice.
How did he create the original pods? you might well ask. Apparently he grouped guys he thought would mesh well together. He described a Tiger/Phil pairing as what they called a "red-light" pairing, not meaning that they don't get along but that they both react very differently to pressure. He said he wanted guys who would react similarly, so they would instinctively pull together when the heat was on.
I was impressed because this was a pretty unique way to get the guys personally invested in the outcome. You can't just say the Captain made a poor choice when you not only knew who you were going to play with, but you chose some of the team members yourself. You can be sure that, at some point, those guys told their Captain, "We know you suggested that pairing, but we think this pairing will work better," and you can be pretty sure the Captain said, "Ok, you know your pod's strengths and weaknesses best." Let's face it -- everybody thinks they can be a good captain, so Zinger gave them the chance to prove it.
In effect, he made all of the players into captain's assistants, and gave each responsibilities that directly impacted the success of the team. Pretty smart, don't you think?
What we should probably take from this is how important it is to take responsibility for our own games. You shouldn't be using a swing just because somebody told you to "swing like this"; you should be convinced that this is the best swing you can use right now. Sometimes you have no choice, but when you do, you should play with people you choose to play with.
And you should realize that you have only a limited amount of responsibility for the results of your play. You can only do so much, so don't beat yourself up just because you can't control it all.
After all, even if both sides at the Ryder Cup had used pods, only one could win.