I hate the phrase. I hate the word – Choke. Nothing bothers me more than hearing an announcer mention choking in sports as he attempts to explain what is happening to a player or team that appeared to have the game, match or tournament in hand. As I watched the British Open this summer it was painful to see Adam Scott finish with 4 straight bogeys. He obviously didn’t handle the situation as best as he could. But it isn’t as simple as it appears. Being a golfer and having competed at a high level, I have had my fair share of letting the magnitude of the situation get to me. I’ve allowed myself to get out of the moment and allowed my emotions to dictate my performance. It is usually a snowball effect. When I think back to Adam Scott at Royal Lytham, if he had made the 4 footer on 16 I feel he would have won the tournament. He had just bogeyed 15 and now bogeyed 16.
For a golfer with a large lead when faced with small adversity if they can make a key 4 footer, hit a good chip or hit a ball on the green after a poor drive they feel as if “I am going to get this done, it is my destiny and my day.” When the short putt lips out, the second shot sails over the green into a tough spot, they start to unravel and feel out of control. It then affects their decision making. When Adam walked onto 18 tee, Ernie Els had just birdied to tie him. He made a tactical error in hitting a 3 wood. He either should have ripped a driver as he had been doing so well all week or hit an iron that couldn’t get to the bunkers. He hit into the only area he couldn’t hit it. He then played a great shot and gave him a chance for par but missed the putt.
Everyone will say he choked and unfortunately it will be hard to refute, but as I mentioned earlier it is a series of events that lead to it. If he could have made one par on those last 3 holes before 18, he pars 18 in my opinion and wins the championship. Choking is just a situation where our focus gets more on the outcome than the process. We realize where we are and what we are about to accomplish. If we could always the play the game with the process in mind and be a kid we would choke less. We must learn to program our minds to go back to that place where we went out and played for the love of the game. It is a difficult thing to do but the best lose themselves in the moment and just do what they can control. Next time you are playing for your Y league or on the course with your buddies and have a chance to win the match remember why you are there that day. It is what you enjoy doing. Have fun, be a kid and let it go.