Using Your Mind to Stay in Contention Like Jon Rahm

Do You Remain Competitive When You Are Behind?

Playing with a deficit presents a unique set of distractions revolving around scores, strokes, and outcomes. Many golfers fall prey to the ‘math game’ when trailing during a round.

These golfers crunch the numbers as they approach every hole, trying to calculate what they need to score to get back into contention…

“I’m down 5-strokes with nine holes remaining. If the leader bogeys the next hole, I need to birdie to close the gap. By the 16th hole, I need to pull within 2-strokes…”

Focusing on score becomes a huge distraction and leads to the need to hit a “perfect” shot.

If you misplay that shot, you are forced to recompute the numbers, further complicating the issue. In essence, the majority of your game is being played in your head.

Focusing on numbers provides no strategy or insight into how to play the next shot.

The question remains: What is the best strategy to get back into contention when trailing by multiple strokes late in a round?

Instead of worrying about the numbers or outcomes, try focusing on doing the work in the moment. You can’t shoot 69 on the first tee I always tell my clients.

Work is your variables for the shot, including distance, wind, club selection, type of shot, and all your other preshot steps.

When you focus on the work or what to do in the moment, you stop extrapolating your score. In essence, you simplify the game and narrow your focus on hitting the best shot, given the circumstances.

At the 2023 Tournament of Champions, Jon Rahm overcame a seven-shot final-round deficit to beat Collin Morikawa and claim a victory in Hawaii’s Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Rahm started the day by bogeying the first hole before slowly working his way back into contention. Rahm birdied the 18th hole and carded a final-round 63 to pull off a remarkable comeback win.

RAHM: “If you told me at the beginning of the round I was going to do what I did, I don’t know if I would have believed you. But at that point, it’s not like winning is really that in mind. You’ve just got to get to work and start making birdies, and that’s what I did.”

The key is to focus on getting to work. Action in the moment lessens worry and anxiety. With a clear focus on the shot, you can better apply your physical and mental resources toward playing each shot the best you can…

One way of staying in contention is to ground your mind in the present by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What is the best plan for this shot?
  • What is the smart play for this shot?
  • How can I focus on just this shot right now?
  • What sound risks can I take?

Immersing yourself in your preshot routine helps you simplify your play and focus on playing each shot to the best of your ability.

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Golfer’s Mental Edge 2.0

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