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Sunday, August 4, 2019

Nancy Lopez on Trying to Win

I'm taking this quote from a longer section in Nancy's book The Education of a Woman Golfer. But it's a great piece of strategy and I just couldn't bear to pass it up.

Nancy LopezShe's talking about winning and losing, and about that bit of verse that says: "For when the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name/He marks, not that you won or lost, but how you played the game."
"...the sound way to play such tournaments [stroke play] is not with the idea of beating or losing to someone, as in a match play, but essentially just to do the very best one can over the course. In other words, unless you're down to the final holes in a head-to-head scoring duel with someone, or engaged in a sudden death playoff, your real aim is to do as well against Old Man Par as you can. If you can beat him, you'll do okay, and if somebody else beats him even worse than you do, no one should feel very sorry for you, including yourself."
It's very common to hear analysts insist that players should always know exactly where they stand in a tournament, that they should watch the leaderboards and plan their play accordingly. And yet, more and more, we hear the players who are winning say that they never looked at the leaderboards during their round -- they just tried to go as low as they could and take care of their own business.

Nancy Lopez likes that mindset. Focus on beating Old Man Par because that's all you can do. At the end of a tournament, if it comes down to it, that's when you worry about the rest of the field and not before.

I know that some players want to know where they are at all times. (Brooks Koepka comes to mind, of course, although it doesn't seem to help him much outside the majors.) But the fact is this: You have absolutely no control over what other players do. All you can control is what YOU do. For the majority of players, knowing where they are actually seems to make them tighten up and make more mistakes.

And bear in mind that we're talking about the pros here, the players who should be most able to deal with that knowledge! If they have trouble with it, why should a weekend player think about what others are doing? Or, to be honest, about what Old Man Par is doing?

The best way to get around the course in fewer strokes is to forget what your opponent -- be that a person or just Old Man Par -- is doing and simply try to play the best you can. One bad hole won't ruin 17 good ones, and one great hole won't overcome 17 bad ones.

Next time you play, why not try ignoring your score and just try to do the best you can on each hole? Just total them all up at the end and see what your score is. You might be surprised at the result.

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