Dr. Bhrett McCabe is a renowned sports psychologist who not only works with the famously successful University of Alabama football team, but also dozens of other professional athletes — including golfers on the PGA and LPGA tours.
It’s safe to say McCabe knows a thing or two about what it takes to thrive at the highest level of sport. And on this week’s episode of Off Course with Claude Harmon, McCabe offered his take on how players can best prepare themselves to perform in a major championship.
The conversation with Harmon was an interesting one, because Harmon, as Brooks Koepka’s coach for eight years, had a front-row seat to one of the greatest major runs in recent memory, with Koepka winning four majors in two years. Koepka has been open about the fact that he gears up for majors more easily than regular Tour events.
“[Koepka] actually really liked when things got the craziest,” Harmon said. “I always tell golfers, tournament golf and competitive golf is 100 percent random and chaotic. And I think because of the way people practice golf, they expect it to be repetitive and sequential. So they practice it in a very kind of block, over and over and over again, but it doesn’t really work that way.”
“What Brooks is talking about is what my coach used to really teach in us,” he said. “That under the biggest moments you’re gonna rely on what you know the most. So if you’re expecting things to be calm in the biggest moments, they’re not. You’re gonna be frustrated and you’re gonna panic. And so what he would do in the World Series when we’d go, is he would coach less. Ninety-nine percent of every other coach coaches more. They don’t trust their players. They think, I gotta do more.
“It always hits me at majors why everybody shows up to majors. That’s when I would have the fewest people out,” McCabe continued. “Get everybody away from me. Everybody can come to Hilton Head, that’s great. The week before, we’re gonna isolate. And so what Brooks is saying is right. He knows that most players are going to try to do more, they’re gonna try to play better. And as the pressure increases, they’re going to struggle.”
McCabe said that relying on what a player knows best is the way to go.
“We’re not going to do something new at a major,” he said. “We’re not going to do something new in the heat of the moment. We’re going to go with what we know the best.”
For more from McCabe, including what McCabe says are the four prongs of success, the advice he gave to Jon Rahm after his U.S. Open win, and why you shouldn’t aspire to stay calm under pressure, check out the full interview below.