Moment of truth
Published 17/02/2010 | 05:00
LEE Westwood 'nearly' won the Open Championship at Turnberry last year -- but he is honest enough to reveal that a mental, rather than a technical error, cost him the chance of a play-off with Tom Watson and Stewart Cink.
Westwood makes the revelation in a fascinating book called 'Mentality' by Joe Sillett and mind coach Karl Morris.
This is a book in which stars including Geoff Boycott, Laura Davies, Andrew Flintoff, Ranulph Fiennes, Alan Hansen, Dennis Taylor, Tony McCoy and Westwood are interviewed about their 'secrets to success'.
Golfers and indeed any sportsperson can learn much from the stories told by the 16 heroes and heroines who have scaled the heights to great achievement in their chosen disciplines.
The format is interesting: Sillett conducts interviews and Morris, who has worked with Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and many other top golfers, provides a summary and draws on the lessons applicable to the reader.
It doesn't matter if you're a 36-handicap lady or a 24-handicap man or a single-figure golfer -- anyone can draw inspiration from the outlook and mindset of these sporting personalities.
And Westwood? Well, he didn't do too badly after Turnberry did he? The Englishman just kept on track and won the inaugural Race to Dubai.
But what happened to him at Turnberry?
Remember that for most of the tournament Westwood had been playing very confident, solid golf.
The answer was that Westwood fell into that trap of something he calls "one of the most destructive things in golf: getting ahead of yourself, thinking about what might happen as opposed to what is happening."
What actually was happening around him was that Watson, aged 60 and the people's favourite for the title, hit the fairway on the 18th hole. Westwood put his tee shot into a bunker but recovered with a superb 9-iron to reach the green in regulation.
He then started to think about what Watson might do, and put himself under pressure to make a birdie. As it transpired, Westwood three-putted when a four at that hole would have brought him into play-off alongside Watson and Cink.
Said Westwood: "The fact that Tom Watson had already hit the fairway (on the 18th), I wrongly figured that he would make par.
"It's easy to say, but I would probably do exactly the same thing again. How many chances do you get to win an Open championship?
"At the time I felt like I needed a long one to tie. Unfortunately it didn't turn out that way, but hindsight is a wonderful thing and you can't second-guess yourself after the event."
Morris made a point about Westwood and that issue of staying 'in the present' which is highly relevant and often confusing.
Morris says: "The skill of staying 'in the present', which is a recurring theme in the book, is one which needs constant attention and is an area that takes up most of my work with athletes.
"As human beings we are constantly flipping back between the past and our perceived future. For you to become the very best you can be at any sport will require you to get very good at the skill of being in the moment.
"It is a very flippant and ignorant commentator who says 'he just needs to stay in the present' as though it is just a matter of asking yourself to do it. If you are thinking of being in the present, you are not in the present.
"The crucial skill is to become totally absorbed in the task at hand and the job right in front of you.
"To become totally fascinated by the challenge of the shot, the putt, the drive, or whatever is facing you, as opposed to allowing your mind to wander forward to the possible outcome of the shot.
"That is why great golfers place such value on a good routine, a series of steps which keeps their attention in the here and now."
The book 'Mentality' is priced at €17.00 and for purchase details, visit www.mentality.tv.
Incidentally, Karl Morris will be giving seminars at the GUI National Academy. Check out the GUI website for details (www.gui.ie).