Justin Thomas had an outstanding 2017. Five wins including the PGA Championship, member of the victorious President’s Cup Team, FedEx Cup champ and winner of Player of the Year honors. Pretty good right!? Yes indeed but the items listed above probably aren’t news to you. They are things you remembered. What you may not recall however is that he missed six cuts in 2017 including three in a row. Miss three cuts in a row in 2018 and I’m sure the media will be all over you Justin! What you also may not know and what golfers (adults and juniors) and parents of juniors should know is what a full year of scores looks like. How consistent are PGA Tour pros? In the chart below you will see all of the scores Justin Thomas shot and what that looks like in the big picture of a full season. His average score is listed as well as his median. As with all of us, he has a 50 percent chance of shooting his median score or higher and a 50 percent chance of shooting his median score or lower. There is a large difference between his highest score and lowest score that being 21 strokes. This difference is not due to some crazy high score because those are normal every year by most every player but because he shot an extremely low score … a 59. If you take the 59 out of the mix there’s still 17 strokes between his lowest and highest score and let me tell you that is NORMAL. Unfortunately we are playing an inconsistent game. We’re just trying to lower our scoring average and be less inconsistent. Hopefully realizing what the best players do will give you some freedom as a player to not beat yourself up for a tough day on the course.
Bad shots are a part of the game. Champions do something well on their next shot. They rebound. They bounce back. Non-champions drag negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions to their next shot, hole and round. They talk negatively to themselves, blame others for their mistakes, and complain about things that they cannot control.
The next time you hit a shot that you don’t care for try the following:
1. Watch it all the way; find a specific spot to walk toward
2. Under-react to it; shrug it off
3. Do not leave the area from which you hit the shot until you’re over it. Take a practice swing feeling a better swing then place club back in bag and move on, period.
4. Get hungry/excited to hit your next one (play smart; bogey can be a great score)
Golf is about many things … honesty, integrity, friendships to name a few but mentally it’s about how you react and recover when the ball doesn’t go where you had intended.
Jordan Spieth rocked it in 2015 …. five wins, two major championships, FedEx Cup champion, $23 million on-course earnings and the Vardon Trophy. However, I am certain that you and/or your students will be amazed at the insights the chart below presents. Share this with your students, adults, juniors and their parents!
To show you what sort of year Jordan Spieth had, I have displayed in the chart below all of his 2015 scores and the frequency in which he shot those scores. Please note there may be some European Tour scores included. Additionally, he shot over 20 rounds where he shot 68 which exceeded our y-axis on the chart. And for those that don’t know, winning the Vardon Trophy means that he had the lowest scoring average on the PGA Tour so when you look at these numbers you should realize that you’re probably not going to find anything better.
You can see that his average score was 68.58 and his median was 68.2. These scores are also displayed with lines on the chart. His average score is depicted with a blue line and his median with a white line. The median for those who don’t know (or remember from college stats class) is the middle which in this case means there are as many rounds of golf, and therefore scores, on the left side of the white line as there are on the right side of the white line. That said, the scores on the left side of the white line are lower than the median and the scores on the right side of the white line are higher.
Things to Note:
- The difference between his best and worst scores of the 2015 season was 14 strokes. I have done this charting on several players over the past few years and the lowest margin between best and worst rounds was Yani Tseng with 12 strokes in 2011.
- Jason Day’s 2015 score chart, which I posted last week, shows a difference of 20 strokes between his best and worst scores. And if your memory is short, it would be Jason Day’s 2015 season that you’d like to have if it wasn’t Jordan Spieth’s!
- Jordan Spieth has a 50% chance of shooting his median score or lower and a 50% chance that he’ll shoot his median score or higher.
- Las Vegas is going to bet that he shoots his average score and not his best score. The same is true for you. Golfers (and parents of juniors) should know your average score over your handicap.
- The best players in the world tend to have a 13-14 stroke gap between their best and worst rounds of the year.
- Players tend to shoot their lowest score only one or maybe two times during a season.
- All golfers have some sort of “bell” curve of scores. It’s very challenging to squish that curve to less than a 12 shot difference. We’re all just working to move the curve to the left giving us a lower scoring average.
- If you divided this chart into thirds (as you see below), you can begin to think that there are average scores, worse than average scores and better than average scores. The same concept is true for the caliber of shots you hit, the kinds of bounces you will encounter, the kinds of weather you will play in, the condition of courses you will play, the personality of the opponents you will play with, the tee time you draw, the type of warm-up you may have and more.
A special thank you goes out to Dr. Rick Jensen for sharing his wisdom and who explains such a chart so wonderfully with his famous jar of marbles.
I know, the title sounds a bit odd doesn’t it? You might be asking why would I want to and how would I practice getting over them?
You’re putting in a lot of practice time so that you don’t hit bad shots. You might be working with a teacher/coach to gain more consistency so why on earth should you do this? The reason is that golf is a hard game and while it’s probably a bit easier than most people make it, you will never perfect it. You will always hit shots that are disappointing or that don’t turn out the way you had intended. And frankly, if your shots were always perfect the game wouldn’t have the draw and allure that it does. Just watch a tour event for this reason next time. Tour players ALWAYS hit bad shots. It’s just a challenging game. So that said, since everyone, even the best players in the world hit bad shots, shouldn’t you be preparing yourself for this? The answer is absolutely!
On the chipping green, even if you’re working on your technique, after hitting a bad chip shot, don’t rake over another ball and go again. Instead, train yourself to put down your wedge and pick up your putter. Then go finish it out. Even if you don’t make the putt you’ll be training yourself that every shot in your pile of chipping balls matters and you’ll be training yourself to deal with it and getting over it.
When you’re on the range, after you hit a poor iron for instance, resist pulling over another attempt/ball. Grab a wedge and pretend you missed the green with your iron by hitting that wedge to a target close to you as if you had a pitch shot remaining.
That’s how you practice getting over bad shots and that’s how you’ll move on and perform better on the next shot when you’re on the course or in a tournament.
Sounds simple and it really is. You just have to make your practices productive. If your practices don’t help you play better then they’re probably helping you play worse!
Your Hands Will Follow Your Eyes
I went to a Porsche World Road Show yesterday to race some Porsches around a race track. What a great experience! But one thing that I heard the instructor tell us when going around a curve was to look well ahead of where you are because “your hands will follow your eyes.”
The same is very true in golf as we could all learn to get out of our own way a little better than what we tend to do in this great game. Whether you’re hitting a full swing shot engaged in your target or rolling a putt to the hole, we should do the same – your body will perform well when you let your eyes “drive” the motion.
Just had the fortunate experience of doing three live segments on The Golf Channel’s Morning Drive as well as a dozen or so taped tips and we talked about that very same thing as it relates to putting. Take a look at the link below for the segment.
This is a continuation of our A.C.E. Routine. This is Part 3 of 3:
Jason Day, after his win at this year’s PGA Championship held at Whistling Straits, admitted in the press conference that he had a thought come into his mind, “Don’t hit it short in the water.” He went on to say, “That’s the moments where you have to pull yourself back and say, nope, I’m not going to have that. I’m going to stomp on that thought.” These types of thoughts or distractions happen to the best of us. But it’s what you do with them that will make you or break you!
EXECUTE: execution is simply swinging the club. There is virtually no time that takes place between the time you become committed and the time you swing. The commitment trigger not only counters any negativity but also fills the timeframe when most negative thoughts creep into your mind. However, there are times when you need to back off of a shot, regroup and recommit. This would include:
- Any negativity creeps in your mind
- Your eyes drift to, say the pin, when your target is something else
- You get distracted
- Score comes to mind
- The wind speed or direction change
- You’re not really 100% committed
No one else is to blame for the shots you hit – it is your responsibility. Back away and gather yourself if needed. The best level of commitment is one that engrosses you so much in your shot that you don’t even notice the distractions that are around you. Being so into the process of your shot allows you to disregard poor shots helping you to put them behind you and dramatically aiding your ability to bring a clear and focused approach to your next shot.