What you can learn from the play at The HP Byron Nelson Championship:
The HP Byron Nelson Championship is a preferred stop for a lot of the members of the PGA TOUR for various reasons, the biggest of which being the players’ desire to pay tribute to the great man, Byron Nelson.
A member of Golf’s Hall of Fame for his achievements with a golf club in his hands, I have no doubt that if there was a Good People of Sport Hall of Fame, Byron Nelson would be a shoe-in for selection. Truly one of the nicest men in golf, and sport, stories of his goodness and kindness abound. An account that best illustrates the caliber of the man goes as follows:
When he arrived at a course he had not played before, Byron Nelson always enquired what the course record was and who held it. Not because he was arrogant and wanted to break the record but because he believed it would be poor form for him to wrest that honor away from the local professional or a club member.
Well, that is enough doting about one of my heroes, back to this week’s golf. Fast becoming a force on the PGA TOUR and in the world game, Jason Dufner exhibited his typically phlegmatic demeanor and his complete game and played his way into the lead on Saturday afternoon. He then put together a final round, three-under par 67 which included a birdie on the final hole to win the title, his second in three starts.
So what can we learn from Jason Dufner’s play at The Byron Nelson Championship:
The last three holes are the key: I recommend to all of my clientele, especially the tournament-players, that the last three holes can make or break the round. To be fair, every hole is important but in my experience most events come down to the final three holes and if you can play those holes well you will earn your fair share of tournament hardware. Jason Dufner’s performance during the final round today more than proved my point. Locked in a tight battle for the title he birdied the par five 16th, made a par on the 17th and then made a 25-foot putt for birdie and the title on the 18th green. He played the last three holes in the final round in two-under par – that is a sure-fire recipe to making money and winning titles. Indeed, for the week he played the final three holes in four-under par. Know this, if nothing else, added focus and a closing kick on the final three holes will vault you up the leaderboard significantly as most competitors tighten up and back up in the dying moments of the tournament or round. So, resolve to make more committed decisions and focus more intently as you swing more purposefully and over the final three holes. Over and above that, give each putt you face in the final three holes an opportunity to go in. In other words, get you putts to the hole and I am convinced you will be a better closer and as a result a player who surges up the leaderboard at the death.
Use the waggle: Mention the name Jason Dufner and you will more than likely get more commentary on his distinctive pre-shot waggle than you will on his impressive and very complete game. This is a disservice to him as he is a truly accomplished golfer who is fast becoming a leading player on the PGA TOUR. That being said, we can learn a lot from Dufner’s waggle and his disciplined approach during his pre-shot routine. No matter the situation, Dufner will not pull the trigger on his shot until he has waggled the club a few times. In my opinion this is beneficial on many counts: Firstly, it is a tension-reliever and a swing-improver as the waggle loosens up and primes the forearms which are the two major energy conduits in the golf swing. Secondly, it slows down the pre-shot process which helps to ensure that the mind and the attentions are completely focused on the job at hand. Thirdly, the waggle serves as an introduction to the swing that is about to follow. In his book “The Modern Fundamentals of Golf” Ben Hogan describes the waggle as “the bridge between the address and the actual start of the backswing.” To quote Hogan further: “During the waggle, as he previews his shot and attempts to telegraph his mental picture from his brain to his muscles, the golfer makes little adjustments necessary to be perfectly in balance for hitting that particular shot from that particular lie. As he waggles, he tunes himself up and tones himself up for his swing.” In short, if it was beneficial for Ben Hogan and now for Jason Dufner, I would recommend that you investigate building a purpose-filled waggle into your pre-shot routine.
Make a decision and stick with it: My final bit of advice from this year’s Byron Nelson Championship comes not from the players but from the legend, Lord Byron Nelson, himself. “Golf is a lot like life. When you make a decision, stick with it.” Byron Nelson. As Nelson recommended in this quote, commitment and conviction are crucial to success on the course and in competition. The quickest way to scupper your talent and wreck your game is to approach a shot with a doubtful or hesitant mindset. Indeed I would rather you be convinced and incorrect than unconvinced and correct. The reason being is that doubt has its terminus in fear or apprehension and those two emotions result in tension. And in my opinion, tension is the single biggest reason for failed golf swings and golf shots. So, make a decision; back yourself; be single-minded and stick with your decision.
Play well and enjoy our great game.