Flying under the Golf Psychology Radar to Augusta


I was intrigued with the number of players claiming to be flying under the golf psychology radar or at least being reported as doing so in advance of the Masters last week.

Let’s start with the defending champion, Trevor Immelman. Now, no one really expected him to win last year, especially when he went head to head with Tiger Woods on the last day. Despite being the reigning champion, the press reported him as coming in under the radar. Their radar was focussed on the return of Tiger Woods.

Something similar happened this year with Padraig Harrington. He came into the Masters on the back of victories in the last two Majors – The US PGA at Oakland Hills and The Open at Royal Birkdale. Despite some talk of a “Paddy Slam” in the Irish press, Padraig downplayed his chances of a third reportedly saying. "I do fear my opponents, but I fear myself more."

Interestingly it was Paul Casey, after his maiden US PGA Tour win at Houston, who said that he would still back Harrington to win the Masters. “He’ll sneak under the radar,” said Casey. “I’d still put money on Padraig. I don’t think you should read anything into a couple of missed cuts from him early in the season“; he went on to say, “It’s very early. I’m sure he’s not particularly worried. I’m sure he’s working harder than ever. I think we should be worried.”

Elsewhere, Graeme McDowell was reported as the most laid-back man at Augusta. Talking about the amount of attention being paid to his compatriots, Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy, he was quoted as saying,” That suits me fine.”

Canadian Mike Weir was reported as not minding being out of the glare focussed on Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and saying, “it’s kind of nice in a way to again be going under the radar.”

So did they benefit from “flying under the radar” or did it hinder them? Well there’s no obvious way of telling, but none of them came close to winning, despite their undoubted talents. I recognise that flying under the radar of the press leaves a player free to get on with their own game – at least until they get into contention over the last 18 holes.

My real concern would be I they wanted to be under the radar in order to lower expectations of their winning. Even if this is done for positive constructive reasons, the unconscious mind is likely to take it as a sign of lowered expectation rather than confidence. I can’t see Tiger Woods wanting to come in under the radar.

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