In case you missed it, NBA great, Stephen Curry, played in the Web.com Tour’s Ellie Mae Classic this past week. Curry posted a 74-74, for an 8 over par two day total of 148. He tied for 148th and did not make the cut.
This was, of course, to be expected because, while Curry is a world class athlete – and a heck of a golfer (.2 index) – he was playing against some of the strongest players in the world this past week. To make the cut would have required nothing short of a remarkable, once in a lifetime type of performance. Still, there are a few takeaways for all of us from Steph’s performance:
1. Slow Things Down
Whoa? Wait a minute! Did I just say “slow things down?” In this era of 6 hour rounds and 2 minute pre-shot routines, how on Earth could I be saying to “Slow Things Down?”
Well, here’s what I mean by this. When most amateurs get into a pressure situation on the golf course they tend to speed things up. Their swing gets quick, their routine gets stunted, and their breathing increases. All of these things combine to make for tougher go of it on the golf course.
Now, Stephen Curry is great at lower his heart rate and calming his nerves when he faces a game winning free throw with 2 seconds to play in an NBA game, but when faced with a tee shot to a tight fairway on a long par 4, it’s very easy to get amped up and make a less than ideal swing.
So, for amateurs like us the takeaway is this: If a world class athlete can get too “quick” on the golf course when faced with a pressure situation, arm chair athletes like you and I are really going to be susceptible to a case of the “quicks” if we get under pressure.
There are so many different techniques to diffuse pressure – Tiger used to focus on his breathing. Lee Trevino would talk to anyone who would listen, and Jordan Spieth decided to try chewing mint flavored gum at this year’s British Open (it certainly worked!) – but you’ve got to try to find something, anything at all, that can calm you down a bit when you face a pressure situation on the golf course.
And, it doesn’t need to be on the first tee in a Web.com Tour event. It can be as simple as a three foot putt or a long carry over water in your weekly $2 nassau – pressure can come from anywhere on the golf course.
Learn how to deal with it, and you will be well on your way to better scores.
2. Find Fairways
Curry averaged 294 yards off of the tee. Plenty long to compete with the Web.com Tour’s best. Unfortunately, he only hit 50% of his fairways. And hitting out of trouble is no way to compete with world class players. No doubt the pressure we referenced above had a little to do with this, but perhaps Steph could have benefited from one of Bobby’s favorite drills – the Graeme McDowell driving drill. Prior to his victory in the 2010 U.S. Open, McDowell would focus his driving practice on hitting ten “make believe” fairways on the driving range. He would find a narrow area on the range, go through his entire pre-shot routine, and then try to hit the fairway. He would do this for ten straight balls, and he would do it during every practice session. It helped him to simulate the pressure he would face in trying to hit the tight fairways on a U.S. Open course, and it would also build his confidence that if he could do it over 1000’s of balls at the range, he could transfer that feeling and those swing thoughts to the course.
So, the next time you’re at the range, give this drill a try. It really does work. And you will be amazed at how much easier it is to score when you’re finding the fairway more consistently.
3. These Guys Are Good
The final takeaway from Curry’s performance is simply this – as the Tour likes to say – These Guys Are Good!
Steph Curry is a world class athlete and, given his index, in the most upper echelon of amateur golfers around the world. While his 8 over par performance is respectable given the pressure, setup and conditions, in no way was her competitive in this week’s event. And this is against Web.com Tour players. It’s not even against the world’s best who are in Akron, Ohio this week or the PGA Tour’s next tier who are competing in Reno.
Like all sports, the greatest players in the world make it look easy.