Welcome to Play Smart, a game-improvement column that drops every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from Game Improvement Editor Luke Kerr-Dineen to help you play smarter, better golf.
This time last week, Collin Morikawa was in the middle of winning his second major in seven starts, during his Open Championship debut. There was no one reason why he won. Indeed, on Sunday Morikawa seemed to do everything well. But above all else, it was his mentality.
Calm, composed and focused, Morikawa’s priority is not on technique (which is funny, because his technique is so good) but on all golf’s intangible stuff. Not on how to swing, but how to think. He talks a lot about things like processes. His goals, which often have little to do with specific results (“make birdie on the 5th hole”) and more to do with his approach (“commit to the shot”), are another frequent talking point.
It’s the result of years of work with his coach Dr. Rick Sessinghaus, who has a degree in sports psychology, and at the 2021 Open Championship, those years of hard work on the mental side of the game manifested itself.
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It serves as a good reminder for regular golfers who, generally speaking, have an atrocious mental game. When things go wrong, they treat all their problems at technical ones when in reality, some work on your mental approach can have some immediate, short-term benefits.
So, when you’re playing this weekend, give this ‘playing focus’ scorecard a try, from the GOLF Top 100 Teacher team Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott. It’s pretty simple: On every shot you’ll hit, you’ll give yourself a score from one to five based on how focused you were over the shot.
It may sound small and trivial, but pretty quickly you’ll see trends start to arise. Maybe you’re not focusing well on tee shots, or tend to lose focus after a couple good shots on one hole. By taking a little bit of time to track your mental approach to the game, you’ll find yourself writing down lower numbers on your actual scorecard, too.