Dr. Tom Dorsel, Ph.D.
Last week’s Los Angeles Open at Riviera was compelling for the quality of players, the great shots and the intense competition down the stretch. But what I noticed most from my sport psychology perch was how John Rahm handled himself through his ups and downs:
1. Despite his intensity and being wound up tight as a drum, Rahm kept his composure during the inevitable struggling span of holes that happens in most every round. Rest assured that there will be this challenging stretch most every time you play, maybe only one hole, maybe 3 or 4 holes. You have to keep your composure during this span of holes, so you can maintain the focus that will enable you to come out of them.
2. Rahm lost his composure for a moment after a bad pitch or sand shot, I can’t remember which, but I do remember seeing him tense up and grimace. However, and most importantly, he quickly got himself back together and went on to focus on the next shot and the rest of the round.
Tiger was also very composed when he was missing short putts. He wasn’t happy, by any means, but he just walked around the hole to his next putt, doing so without any dramatics like hitting his putterhead or biting the shaft. He just immediately focused on the next putt and knocked it in. You might remember Tiger saying that he gives himself a few seconds to get mad, and then he moves on to planning the next shot or hole. No wasted energy or rumination on the negative — immediately planning a positive next shot or hole.
3. Even though Rahm was going backwards on the leaderboard, he hung in there, stayed close, knowing anything can happen to him or his opponents down the stretch. And it did happen — Rahm drained a long bomb of a putt for birdie, a putt that could have easily been a three-putt. And that 2 shot swing was the margin of victory, all in one “anything can happen” putt. I venture to say that if Rahm had continued to fume after the bad shot previous to this, he would not have had the focus or feel to sink the long putt.
So, remember this image of Rahm: Prepare for the struggling stretch, keep your composure during it, stay as close to the lead as you can, and allow lightening to strike and get you back in the lead. Remember, you were leading when the day began.
Dr. Tom Dorsel is a sport psychologist on Hilton Head Island where he works with many promising junior golfers from around the Southeast. He can be reached on Facebook at “Sport Psychology of Hilton Head,” or through his website, Dorsel.com.