Jul
28

Shark Bitten at Sunningdale without Golf Psychology and Self Hypnosis

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So who made it to Sunningdale to watch the Senior Open Championship last weekend? I know that one of the latest subscribers to my newsletter did and he tells me that he and his wife really enjoyed it? For me it was well worth the visit, especially as it’s only 10 miles down the road from me the Old Course at Sunningdale is one of my favourite courses in the world – not that the New Course isn’t just as good.

There’s absolutely no doubt that this weekend and so many times before in majors Greg Norman has struck the ball brilliantly and enjoyed a great short game, it just seems that he’s missed out on the mental side of the game, especially in the closing holes. As far as I can recall, Greg has never worked with a golf psychologist and sadly it shows at times like these. If he had Tiger’s training and could use golf psychology and self hypnosis at these critical times, just imagine how many majors he would have won by now.

Coming back to the venue, Sir Michael Bonallack, one of the UK’s and possibly the world’s finest amateur golfers of all time and secretary of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews for 15 years, describes Sunningdale very aptly on the welcome page of the club’s website:

“All that one would hope to find in the ideal golf club is in abundance at Sunningdale. Two magnificently conditioned courses of superb design and so pleasing to the eye, a clubhouse which provides members and visitors with an unforgettable experience of pampered comfort, accompanied by exceptional food and wine, a staff that anticipates and provides for the members’ wishes, no matter how eccentric they may be, a first class professional’s shop and competent instruction on hand, the most knowledgeable caddies in the game and the finest halfway house I know.”

My first memory of playing at Sunningdale was in the early 1970s when I played in an event there run by The Plus Four Society an elite group of golfers sponsored by the Surrey Golf Union with membership restricted to handicaps of 4 and less under the old handicapping system. Thankfully, I can’t remember much about my rounds that day, but I do remember one of my fellow golfers playing both courses of the championship tees in 68 for a total of 136. It must have really felt like he was being cheated when his plus 2 handicap was added back to his score and he ended up with a net 140 for the handicap event. It certainly seemed so unfair to me, as someone playing off 2 handicap and desperately needing both my shots! Unlike today, there were very few players of plus 2 in those days. I was intrigued to see that same man playing in the Senior Open Championship there last week and still as an amateur.

I really enjoyed watching so many of my golfing heroes out there playing just as well as I remembered back in their heydays. People in their 50s and 60s playing that standard of golf is an inspiration to people like me of a similar age and, like last week at the Open, it reminded me that I really can’t use my age as an excuse for playing less golf.

I found it difficult to choose who to follow and who I really wanted to win and it came down to a choice of Greg Norman and Tom Watson. They are both players I admire and both have played remarkable golf in major championships in the last two years. I felt sorry that Tom again missed out after coming so close at the Open. However the person I really wanted to win was Greg Norman. Although Greg has won the Open twice before, I hadn’t realised how many times he had slipped up in the last round of majors. I remember of course his pushed long iron on the final hole of the Masters in 1986 when a par would have got him into the playoff and his turning a six shot lead in the last round there ten year’s later into a 5 shot defeat by Nick Faldo.

When I checked the records, it turned out that Greg had just had those two Open victories out of 23 majors where he finished in the top 6. In addition he came second in 8 of those majors and third in 4 more. So he clearly has a problem finishing off his rounds.

So what happened last weekend, well Greg was striking the ball awesomely well and his shots were going long and straight. Despite dropping a few shots, that you’d expect from a man who plays so little competitive golf, his short game was just amazing. He was probably playing as well as he played in all those top-six finishes in majors. But when he got to the 16th on Sunday, needing one more birdie to tie the lead or two to win outright, he pushed his drive way right just like he had hit that long-iron back at the Masters in 1986. He made a miraculous recovery from deep in the trees and hit his third fairly close to the pin, he was out of it and three putted. He was still hitting the ball well on 17 and 18, but he was a defeated man.

Here’s wishing Greg Norman and all my other golfing heroes every success at the US Seniors Open this coming weekend.

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