Most players get to the No.1-index hole and think about just trying to survive without destroying the round. Being cautious is understandable. We feel it, too, especially in the Majors, where course setups can be brutal. But you’ll have more success if you treat that 425-metre par 4 the same as all the others, instead of playing it safe. I used the strategies here to win two Major championships and they’ll work just as well for you no matter what hole you’re playing. It’s time to start looking forward to the challenge and stop playing with fear.
See Your Shot
Before I step up to any shot – on any hole, hard or easy – I go through the same mental process. I create a picture in my mind of exactly what the shot will do. Seeing the specific starting line, trajectory, landing and finishing point is a lot different than hoping just to hit it out there somewhere safe. When you have a specific image in your mind and commit to it, you tighten your focus. It’s also an important part of handling pressure. You’re giving your mind something to do other than be nervous.
Long, hard holes are usually visually intimidating from the tee. That’s done on purpose to make you uncomfortable from the start. In those tense situations, it’s very common to swing faster than normal. And when your tempo changes, your sequencing gets thrown off, which produces a bad shot at the worst time. On a hard driving hole, do the same things you would on a hole you love to play. Take the club back at your usual unhurried pace and make the same smooth swing you would when you’re playing your best.
Have an Approach Plan
Bad decisions are just as costly as bad swings – and many times they go hand in hand. When you have a hard approach, don’t get consumed with all the trouble around the green. Instead, pay attention to key fundamentals such as alignment, aim and picking the right club for the shot. Good planning helps take away the indecision over the ball that often leads to out-of-control swings. A good swing thought to marry with your plan is to maintain the extension you feel in your arms from address to finish. You’ll hit it solid and make a hard hole play easy.
I set the 36-hole scoring record for the US Open (10-under par) in 2014, but the number you see on the ball
I use for every tournament round commemorates the 59 I shot in 2006, my first year as a professional. It was in the second round of the Habsburg Classic, on the European Professional Development Tour, when I was 21 years old. It’s hard to be disappointed about going 13-under, but I still think about the birdie chance I missed on 17, an easy par-5.
– Martin Kaymer won the 2010 US PGA Championship and the 2014 US Open, and made the clinching putt for Europe at the 2012 Ryder Cup.