As we head into Super Bowl weekend and look back at the playoffs leading to the Super Bowl, thoughts lead to the differences between a team sport (football) and the wonderful game of golf.
When we look back 6-8 weeks, everyone expected the Super Bowl to be the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots. One tam made it and the other lost it's first playoff game to the eventual Super Bowl participant, the New York Giants. Why did this happen and how is it different from your golf game?
The "experts" all season long spoke of the weaknesses Dallas had: special teams weaknesses, defensive backfield injuries, and a lack of depth at the wide receiver position. In professional football, the coaches analyze the weaknesses of the other team and draw up a game plan to exploit it. In the win over the Cowboys, the Giants had two great scoring opportunities in the second half and scored the winning touchdown on one of them. Both were set up by exploiting the weak special teams play by having a kickoff and punt return each returned to mid-field. Additionally, the Giants attacked the weakest parts of the Dallas secondary as well as blitzing and putting extreme pressure on the Dallas quarterback. Because of the injuries and lack of speed and strength in the Cowboys' receivers, the receivers were unable to get open fast enough to let their quarterback make quick plays against the aggressive Giant defense.
Okay, so what does that have to do with your golf game? Easy. It is you who controls your game plan for the golf course. YOU can play to your strengths. YOU can avoid your weaknesses. It is only YOU that can exploit or "bare" the weak spots of your game. Need some examples? Let's look at the player who has the best record in Major tournaments, Jack Nicklaus, and the man chasing him, Tiger Woods. Nicklaus was a great and long driver of the ball, great iron player and great strategist. He was, at best, a decent chipper and pitcher of the golf ball. It wasn't until late in his career that he worked with Phil Rodgers to improve that part of his game. Nicklaus' career was defined by his length, the number of greens he hit in regulation and his strategic overpowering of a golf course, especially in Majors.
Woods is exceptionally fit and strong, a superb iron player, an imaginative pitcher and chipper of the ball and a great putter. He is rarely in the top 30 or even 50% of the driving accuracy or total driving statistics kept on the PGA TOUR today. Yet he wins, and wins and wins. He hits fantastic recovery shots, has the strength to get the ball out of the thick US Open roughs and the strength and touch to hit unbelievable shots around the greens. A combination that puts him square in the chase to meet and surpass the records of one Jack Nicklaus.
What does this mean for you? Identify your strengths of your game and make them stronger. Practice them hard. Then you can depend on them. As an example, if you are good around the greens, become great around the greens with more practice. Would you play better if you hit more greens? Maybe. Probably. Would you play better if you got it up and down 2-5 more times a round than you do now? ABSOLUTELY. Or let's say you are a good short iron player. So instead of playing a par 5 or long par 4 to set up a pitch for a third shot, play smart to a distance where you can play better from a 9 iron or wedge difference. If you take four (4) shots from inside a hundred yards but never more than three (3) when you have a 9 iron in your hand do you think you would score better? ABSOLUTELY.
This doesn't mean you don't practice those things that need to get better. It means that you continue to strengthen your strengths with practice. Practice all aspects of the game but do not let your strengths become mediocre while you try and better the weaknesses. Identify, strengthen and improve. This is YOUR golf game, not "the" golf game. Set your plan to get better. Utilize your strengths on the golf course. Play better, score better and have more fun. And oh yeah, win a few more bets.