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Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Mental Game

I spent Saturday watching football. That's not typical for me. While I enjoy watching the NFL sometimes, I'm typically doing something else and biding time until the golf starts. Although I was working on my computer while the games were on, I watched a lot more than usual.

And I only checked in on the Sony Open from time to time. That's VERY unusual. But this week football might have taught us more about golf than GC's broadcast.

For those of you who don't keep up with the game, this weekend is the Divisional Playoffs. This weekend is when the Super Bowl contenders get cut down to four. Next week it's cut to two... and those teams will go to the Super Bowl on February 2. My Carolina Panthers are in the playoffs for the first time in several years. They'll try to get through today.

Saturday night I sat in amazement as quarterback Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to a 43-22 win in bad weather over the Indianapolis Colts.

Tom Brady

This has been a rough year for the Pats. They've lost a lot of key players to injury, and they've had to fill in with a lot of rookies. The Pats have a fairly complicated system that some players simply can't learn. Most of Brady's favorite receivers have either been injured or lured away by other teams. And Brady himself is 36 years old; many teams wouldn't play someone that old. A lot of people didn't think the Pats could even make the playoffs.

But here they are, and they seem to be getting stronger as they go. The amazing thing is how they're doing it... and that's where we can learn.

You see, Brady is one of the best quarterbacks the game has ever seen. (I know there are a lot of Patriot haters out there -- you know who you are -- but even you have to concede that point.) He is one of those QBs who can make the big pass under pressure when it has to be made. This season Payton Manning (with the Denver Broncos) broke the record for touchdowns thrown in one season. That record had been Brady's.

The Pats scored 6 touchdowns in Saturday's game. Do you know how many of them were the result of Brady's throws?

ZERO. Brady didn't throw a single touchdown pass. He made a few critical passes but, for the most part, was content to hand the ball to his running backs and let them make the big plays. In fact, he only attempted 25 passes while the backs ran the ball nearly twice as much -- a very un-Patriotlike performance. In fact, I heard LeGarrette Blount (who ran 4 of those TDs in) say that if you had told him before the game that Brady wouldn't have thrown a single TD, he wouldn't have believed you.

But -- and this is what I want you to get from this post -- Brady has said he doesn't care about his stats. He cares about winning games, and that was the way to win this one.

How often have you addressed the ball, knowing that you just needed to hit a fairway wood off the tee... but you pulled out the driver because you could hit it so much further? Of course, you didn't. You probably sliced it into the trees and butchered the hole.

How often have you tried to get a fancy approach shot close to the hole when all you needed was a simple shot somewhere on the green? Bet you ended up missing the green entirely and racking up a big score, didn't you?

How often have you tried to ram a putt into the hole because you couldn't bear the thought that you might leave a short tap-in... and ran the ball ten feet by for a 3-putt?

Here's the big question: How many of those errors did you make simply because you felt like you "weren't trying hard enough" unless you did it the hard way? Or because you didn't want to look weak to your foursome? Or simply because you couldn't bear the thought that you might lose a shot by playing safe? (BTW, not playing safe cost you two shots... or three... or...)

Tom Brady and his team dissected the opposition because they looked at what they could do best and then DID IT. And actually accepting what we can and can't do and then playing that way is often the hardest part of our game. The mental game isn't so much about "gaining a winner's mentality" as it is about accepting our limitations and learning to exploit them so we get the best score we can... and that's way harder than reciting "I can do this" as you stand over a putt.

But taking what the game gives you can be awfully rewarding. Just ask Tom Brady.

The photo of Brady came from espn.go.com. It's a 2-year-old article, but I liked the picture.

1 comment:

  1. I have been studying your blog posts during my break, and I need to admit your complete article has been very useful and very well composed.

    Best Regards,
    Mental Golf Edge

    ReplyDelete