Did you know that the week after the Masters there’s professional golf? Suffering from Masters hangover like I do every year, I usually don’t track the pro golf tours a week or two following the Masters. But this past week had many interesting storylines, which I have some theories about with regards to the mental aspect of the game. Begin the unscientific study…now.
Masters Heartbreak to Great Performances
There are four specific players I’d like to discuss here. Those four are players who all competed in the Masters last week, but left without a victory or without even making the cut.
Lee Westwood had a solid Masters, finishing in solo 7th place, seven shots behind winner Bubba Watson. Westwood has left Augusta with no Masters or Major win on a yearly basis.
This past week Westwood smoked the field at the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur. I believe the term coined on the European Tour website was “Westwood Romps to Victory.“ What constitutes a romp or smoking the field? A seven shot margin of victory.
Matt Kuchar was tied for the lead on the 4th tee at the Masters during the final round. After four-putting that same hole, his hopes for the 2014 Masters win were crushed. Kuch finished T5.
This past week at Harbour Town Kuch was fantastic, holing out his bunker shot on the final hole for birdie to steal the win from Luke Donald. Final round: 64.
Speaking of Luke Donald, this former #1 player in the world is third of our four players. Luke missed the cut at the 2014 Masters. The following week he found himself leading at Harbour Town and nearly winning on Sunday, if not for an amazing finish by Kuchar.
Miguel Angel Jimenez
Finally we have golf’s most interesting man in the world, the fabulous Miguel Angel Jimenez. Jimenez. Miguel had the lead in the 2014 Masters at one point. Very cool to see him atop the leaderboard at the Masters. He was close all week, finishing in solo 4th place just four strokes behind winner Bubba Watson.
This past week, the now 50-year-old made his first start on the Champions Tour at the Greater Gwinnett Championship in Duluth, Georgia. Jimenez took the lead immediately and led the tournament wire-to-wire, holding off the nearest competitor Bernhard Langer by two shots.
What Does This Mean?
As this unscientific piece continues, I think about the mental aspects of the game and playing under pressure. I can relate in my own small way. There are so many times where I felt like I was not able to handle the pressure (self imposed usually) of a tournament, event, or round. Once I figured I’d shot myself out of contention, the pressure was off and suddenly I played far better. No pressure, better scores.
The same, in my not-so-professional opinion, applies here. The four players above found the week after the Masters to be free of the pressure of a major championship. They found it much easier to be relaxed and perform well.
Sure you can make a “horses for courses” argument, especially with Donald and Kuchar at Harbour Town. Those two are two of the most accurate players in the world, and the course is best suited for that type of player, but still. These players were able to pull off wins or near-wins in my opinion largely in part because they did not have the high pressure of a major championship to deal with.
Now you could say that for these four players there are dozens who did not shine this past week and it would be a valid argument. But three of these four players had a shot at winning the Masters, Donald the exception, then followed up with wins the following week.