WHY SOME GOLFERS WIN- AND WHY OTHERS CAN’T

It doesn’t matter if your playing you pals in a $2-$2-$4 game or you have a one shot lead in the US Open with 3 holes to play. Self inflicted pressure is what makes our hearts, putting strokes and swings faster under this pressure.

Some players can handle it, even thrive on it, like Tiger Woods for example. When he is in the hunt, other players feel the crushing pressure like a Tiger pouncing on a poor outmatched Elk ready to become a tasty meal.

When golfers practice, what is hard to do is to practice while replicating the intense pressure that golfers feel while under siege in a situation that is important to them. This weekend as I posted earlier I entered the 98th Oakland City at my beloved Lake Chabot Golf course I played as a kid growing up in the area. I knew the field of roughly 25 players would be relatively easy, and anything other than a win would be a disappointment. Sounds cocky perhaps, but without that approach why even compete.

On Friday I played a practice round with three friends, and one of them had not yet entered the event. I talked John into entering and was hopeful that he would play well to put additional heat on me during the event. In the first round he shot 71 and I had 68. We had separated ourselves from the field, looking like a two man battle for the win.

We both got off to good starts with par par birdie on 1-3. On the 4th hole I had a 2 footer for birdie that I yipped, while John made his. On #5 I again missed a two footer for par, giving up another shot to John, and on #7 I again three putted from 20 feet to give up my 3 shot lead.

But on the 8th hole a tough par 3 hole up a steep hill, I hit a 6 iron to 5 feet while John pulled up short. His chip was poorly hit leaving him 20 feet uphill. He left his par putt short, then missed his 18 inch putt making a crushing double and putting me back up 2.

We both made good putts on 8 and 9 for birdie par, and again on #10 John left a 4 foot birdie putt short. So back and forth we went with a lot of visible choking looking like neither of us was capable of taking over control of this Championship.

That changed temporarily on 11 and 12 where I went birdie birdie to take a commanding 4 shot lead, that extended to 5 shots when John again missed a short putt on the 13th hole. So with a 5 shot lead with 5 holes to go, you’d think I would be able to just now relax and play steady golf. That did not happen.

If I was just playing golf I would have played these last holes 2-3 under par, as they are the easy holes at Lake Chabot, especially the downhill 18th hole that plays to a par 6. Instead I flew the green on 14 and made bogey, 4 up. On 15 I hooked my tee shot against the fence left and chipped out for another bogey, 3 up. On the 16th hole I had a 25 foot birdie putt that I lagged to 2 feet and missed with a yipped push and jolt of my body. So now I had the tough uphill par 3 17th hole where I made a solid par to right the ship while John made bogey to get 3 back with the 18th hole left.

NORMALLY A 3 shot lead is safe, but not on a hole like this. I hit a good drive that did not roll down the hill, and I followed it with a poor second lay up shot I hit way right. John had only 180 left to the green making a 3 possible. I then chunked my 3 shot short of the green and had the same shot John did from short of the green. The pin was on a very small back ledge that meant long was out of the question so short it was, leaving me a very slow steep uphill putt. John hit a good chip to 6 feet below the hole, and of course I’m thinking if I three putt this and he makes his, we’ll be tied.

This is NOT the way to think, I needed to just focus on hitting a solid putt and getting out of there with a 6 on the hole. I fortunately hit a good putt to 2 feet and decided to just finish it before the putting demons had a chance to creep into my body. I quickly stepped up to the putt and knocked it in. Fortunately for me this ended John’s comeback. But had he made a few more short putts during the round, this would have been his win, not mine.

There is no lesson here because despite winning the event, I know that with stronger competition I would not have played well enough to win. Coming from behind is easier than holding onto the lead. Just look at what world #1 did with an 8 shot lead with nine holes to play. He won by 3 and it could have been even closer if Ryan Palmer could have made a putt. Ryan kept cutting across his putts, which I believe was a result of the pressure. He has not won a significant individual event in a very long time.

I think that John Rahm is a great player, but showed us all what playing in the lead is like on a tough course. Justin Thomas showed is the same last week when he was 3 up with three to go and lost.

So how should a golfer deal with a pressure situation that makes it hard to breath, and certainly hard to swing smoothly, and putt with confidence. I’ve tried Beta blockers, Kava Kava, CBD, breathing exercises, hypnosis, sports psychology along with many other things that I have experimented with. I even tried a flask of vodka that helped the putting but didn’t do much for my motor skills.

What I have found the most helpful during these situation will sound obvious, but do work. #1 stay in your routine, don’t take more time than normal, just stay in the same routine you always go through. #2 you must breath from deep in your belly, get as much Oxygen in your system as possible. Most players are holding their breath and making it impossible to perform. And lastly and #3 is you must visualize the result you want, meaning visualize the perfect stroke and the ball rolling on the line you’ve chosen and into the hole. When hitting a shot, visualize the flight, trajectory and result. DO NOT Look at the trouble and try to steer away from it.

All of this is easier said than done. This all takes work, if you want to be the best in your respective arena against the players you compete against, then practice having the confidence to know you will prevail against them.

I hope you find some of this helpful, it will ultimately help me as writing these things is a constant reminder of what I need to work on.

page3image4051763298th Annual Oakland City Championship Round 2 Leaderboardpage3image40523232

98th Annual Oakland City Championship Senior Championship – Senior Champ

Pos.PlayerTotal To Par GrossR1R2Total Gross
1Haag, R-36873141
2Watson, J-17172143
3Leydorf, B+67575150
4Arneson, M+87874152
5Ponsford, J+87874152
6Hendrick, S+87874152
7Behrend, P+97776153
8Williams, J+97380153
9Ross, W+108074154
10Staskus, M+107678154
11Piearcy, G+117976155
12Cohn, N+118075155
13Jacobs, R+148177158
14Speer, D+147682158
15Ginsburg, L+157683159
16Wishart, M+177883161
17Craig, T+188379162
18Keady, J+258584169
19Litzelfelner, J+278586171
20Lavalley, D+338988177
NSMurphy, M79NSNS
NSMullen, J80NSNS

THE GAME HAS CHANGED

Typically I’ll have a void in my posting here after a disappointing golfing experience, and last Friday and Saturday were quite disappointing. It was the start of the first major amateur event after the COVID 19 halt.

What it did was halt my confidence and WAGR ranking. Amateurs that care about their World Ranking, need to plan their events very carefully as the new system uses a power ranking for each event, and a declining points method over the 104 weeks your tournaments count.

Since I knew the NCGA Stroke play was a high power ranking event, that playing well would really help me, and playing poorly would hurt me. After a VERY disappointing 77-79 and missing the all time low cut by 10 shots, I saw my WAGR ranking sink by 181 places and move me from 24th in the world senior rankings to #29.

At the end of 2019 I was in the #8 position, and have dropped 21 places since the beginning of the year. The majority of the drop was due to the new power ranking method that gave some of my better performances way diminished in my total number. The WAGR ranking is very complex and confusing, and sometimes I don’t know what events I should or shouldn’t enter. In early March the Moot Thomas event I played in Florida dropped my ranking after a T3 finish, as I needed a 2nd or win to maintain and/or increase my total points.

The California Golf Association has graciously extended me an exemption into the California State Amateur being held at the incredible Torrey Pines Golf complex, the site of the 2021 US Open. Since I played my collegiate golf at San Diego State University and played Torrey a lot in the past, I felt that this was the perfect venue to end my career in the Cal State Am, one of my favorite all time events.

But the challenge will be the star studded college player strong field of 156 players vying for the 32 match play spots. We will play the South Course between 7,108 and 7741 yards (at Sea Level) and the North course at 7080 yards. For the College bombers this will not be a problem, the longer the better. But for a Senior at age 61, those 510 yard par 4 into the wind will be very tough.

Last weekend I was paired with two very good college players, one from Chico State and the other from Fresno State. I unfortunately was not driving the ball my best, but on one hole at Poppy Hills, the old 3rd hole and now with the reroute the 12th hole, from the Jones tees plays about 465 yards uphill into the wind. The kid from Fresno State flies the ball very high, and the wind does not seem to slow his ball down. On this dogleg left hole, from the very back tees he flew his drive over the trees on the left leaving him a flip sand wedge to a back pin.

Me on the other had hit a low driving ball that hit into the hill, and left me with a blind shot of over 200 yards uphill and into the wind. This may be an extreme case, but on the par 5 ninth hole uphill 520 yard hole, he hit drive 3 iron to 15 feet with a back pin. Nowadays this is more the norm for these players, not the exception.

Watching the Memorial its astounding that Bryson hit two drives over 400 yards (with lots of roll) but this distance off the tee gives these players a chance to hit highly lofted clubs into tight areas of the greens, while I am now required to shoot for the middle of the green.

So what’s the solution for me at 61 were my driver club head speed has gone from 112 mph to 105. I can either work like hell on my body, technique and diet and strive to get that yardage back, or I can give up on playing against the kids (and mid ams 25-55) and stick to playing senior golf.

Tiger today said in his interview that getting old SUCKS, yes it does. He clearly is not the golfer at 44 that he was in the past, and probably never will be with his beaten up body. The solution is to limit the number of high torque swings you make, stop hitting lots of balls, and do more stretching, yoga, and smart weight training. Easier said than done.

This weekend I am playing in the 89th annual Oakland City at Lake Chabot, a course that I played as a kid, and has the famous par 6 hole on #18.

I have 10 days to prepare for the start of the California State Amateur at Torrey Pines against a super star studded field. I DO NOT want to embarrassment myself so I will be doing everything I can over the next 10 days to make sure I don’t see another 181 ranking drop in the WAGR.

Stay tuned, next week will be filled with new posts and information

MUST READ- Bryson DeChambeau

I just recently wrote about the single plane golf swings of Bryson and Moe Norman. But today I am here to write about Bryson whom I met when he was 7 years old coming out of his family pool in Clovis CA.

The media and some golf fans have been brutal on Bryson citing slow play, over confidence and other crap that I am sick of hearing about. I believe I am one of the few amateurs that have competed against both Tiger and Bryson DeChambeau. I met Bryson as a young lad because I was good friends with his dad Jon. I played in many NCGA events with Jon DeChambeau, especially when he was paired with PGA Tour winner Matt Bettencourt in best ball events (they won most of them)

So here is the inside scoop on Bryson vs. Tiger as how they treated me. From 1994-1996 I was paired or played with Tiger 3 times. He was never that interested in me, or who or what I was all about. He was a super talent that had little time to connect with a guy that was not meeting him in the finals of the US Amateur. I was invited by Buddy Marucci to play in a practice round in 1996 at Pumpkin Ridge with him, John Harris and Tiger. I declined and played ahead of them. I knew that any practice round with Tiger would only make me feel uncertain about my game and my chances in the amateur.

In 1994 I did beat Tiger out for Sports Writers California Player of the Year, but that was the only time I would beat Tiger out of anything. Don’t get me wrong, a player like Tiger comes along every 100 years, maybe more. BUT I did have a very different experience with Bryson.

Just 7 years ago when the California State Amateur was played at Monterey Peninsula CC I was thrilled to be playing this Nor Cal gem, after Pebble Beach decided to shut us out. But in 2013 the challenge was the 30-50 mph winds we experienced during the qualifying rounds. I was paired with the defending champion and because of our tee time rotation we had zero chance of making match play.

In that field was a guy named Bryson DeChambeau (#10 in the world) Xander Schauffele (#11 in the world) and Maverick Mc Nealy (tied for 8th today and made $211,875). Some serious studs, but what I will always remember is when Bryson saw me walking to the parking lot after my second round. He was on the first tee and about to tee off. I saw him see me and walk off the tee towards me, take off his unique cap and say “Mr. Haag, its so great to see you, I’ve been following you for all these years and I remember when we met”. I am telling you that I was VERY impressed with Bryson and am still impressed with him to this day where he knocked down his 6th PGA event.

Every Northern California Golf Fan should be rooting hard for this kid Bryson. Despite what you may think, he is humble, he is the real deal, and he is from Northern California. I have a few other great stories about Bryson that make me smile like when I saw him at Oakmont for the 2016 US Open where he told me he was going to putt side saddle on the PGA tour once he officially got his tour card. Bryson did putt side saddle until the PGA/USGA gave him trouble about the putter he was using. To this day I am not sure what the possible violating was, or why he stopped?

So at the 2013 California State Amateur Bryson, Maverick and I all shot 77 in this horrifically high winds in the first round. They were both in their late teems, I was in my mid 50’s. I was not expecting to win the event, but certainly was looking to make match play and take some of the kids down. Bryson made match play on the number 149, I missed by 4 shooting a disappointing 153. But Bryson despite his low seed advanced to the finals and lost a close match in the finals.

Since that date in 2013 Bryson has won the NCAA individual title, the USGA Amateur and now winner of 6 PGA tour titles. He has done something I have NEVER seen before in golf. He has dedicated himself to be the very best player he can be. How he’s done this by transforming his body into a powerful mass of muscle and flexible body parts. I have never ever seen such a transformation in a body in such a short period of time.

People, Bryson is not Superman, but through his own drive and desire to be the best he can be, he has done something very few can do with the dedication and drive to make himself Into the ultimate golfing machine. Like sir Nick and Jim said on CBS, if Bryson dials in his wedge game it could be all over for the rest of the players.

The truth be told, Bryson is a very sensitive and caring person like his mom and dad. he grew up in a good environment with seeing the love and drive his dad had for the game. But Bryson was never dragged to the course, at an early age he fell in love with the game that he know dominates against the best players in the world.

OK JUST A FEW STATS- Bryson averaged with his driver over 350 yards, well ahead of phenom Matthew Wolfe. Bryson has gone from a driving average of 291+ to over 320 yards per drive. His fairways hit number has actually improved. So what your seeing is Tigeresq and is something the golf world has never seen in such a short period of time.

Maybe some of my stats are not 100% accurate, but what is accurate is this kids drive and passion to be the best he can be, perhaps the best in the world. So I say lets all root for him to win his first major at Harding Park. Even better yet, lets bet on him to win the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park.

Yes the rough is going to be brutal, but Bryson will be flying the ball further than anyone else, and when he does find the nasty rough, he’ll have 130 left, not 175 by the average player and that will be the difference maker.

So my advice to you is BET on Bryson to win the PGA Championship and stare down the likes of Dustin, Brooks and Tiger in the process as he win his 1st of many majors.

Common Nor Cal fans and all golf fans, support this PHENOM, he is the real deal!!!

SIDE SADDLE PUTTING MADE EASY

I just spent the last 4 days playing golf at Edgewood Tahoe and Schaffer’s Mill in Truckee with my buddy Brad. We had a very spirited match each day with enough $$$ on the line to make the 2-5 foot putts a real challenge.

Unfortunately for Brad the challenge was his, putting with left hand low, he constantly complained that he could not see his line, and never felt confident with where he was aiming, even on the short putts.

He grabbed my putter a few times after a short miss and made it with my side saddle putter every time. My back-up STX side saddle putter will now be in his bag next week when we play again. He is well aware that it will take some time to calibrate his speed on the longer putts, so he’ll take out his 4 iron and keep two putters in his bag for now. I’ve done this in the past as well. Perhaps I will hit a 4 iron once or twice a round, as opposed to the 5-10 putts you may have in the 2-5 foot range.

It’s way more important to make those short putts than to have that one club in your bag that you may not even use during a round of golf. So for starters a two putter bag makes sense when converting to side saddle (FaceOn) putting, as you will really struggle on the longer putts, but will fill the cup up on the shorter ones.

The fundamentals are very important, so watch this short video on how I set Brad up with the putter and how he did the first time he tried putting this way.

THIS WILL WORK FOR YOU TOO

STAY TUNED FOR MY FAVORITE COURSES

My New Single plane swing

At the beautiful Edgewood golf course in Stateline Nevada, I used this single plane method on every shot. I didn’t hit it perfect, but better than usual. From the gold tees I shot 69 with a 3 putt bogey on the 18th hole.

What I love about the single plane swing is the tilt down with my right side allowing me to easily clear back to my left. I didn’t miss a drive badly either left or right all day.

Although this swing is not prefect, it worked so take a look

this is a very tight tee shot #4 at Edgewood

Stay tuned for more on side saddle putting

single plane swing Golf swing-amazing

I’m not sure how many people have played around with this technique, but yesterday was the first time I personally ever tried it, and OMG I was shocked.

I played Edgewood Tahoe with a good buddy of mine, we play $100 a hole. Not really an ideal time to try something this completely new, but it worked so well I hit every shot with my left arm in line with the shaft. It was blowing 20-30mph yesterday at Edgewood, making solidly struck shots more important than ever.

Why did this work so well for me? My guess is that my whole life I’ve had a unique swing that takes the club upright with a slight loop coming into the ball. Its my swing, it works OK, but I’ve always thought I could improve on it. I’ve taken hundreds of lessons from top tier instructors and they have been able to help me with minor tweaks like getting my weight more on my right side.

But when my body aches and my range of motion is less than ideal, I struggle. What I love about the single plane setup is the tilt down of the right side getting more weight right at address. This helps a lot when your range of motion is not at its best. I found the single plane allowed me to easily get back to the ball with a very square club face.

Honestly I was shocked, especially with the driver, I was bombing drives further than I have been recently hitting them, with very solid contact. I don’t think the single plane technique is right for everyone, but for me I believe it will help me a lot in upcoming tournaments.

You can find a lot of helpful video’s on YOUTUBE, here is one of them

check this out, it works

Still coming are my top global courses I’ve played and why

Stay tuned