That missed three-footer on the 11th on Sunday at the British Open more than likely cost Phil Mickelson the Claret Jug. So said the four-time majors winner himself.
Thinking ahead. “I just let my mind slip [and] started thinking ahead as opposed to focusing on the putt,” Mickelson confided to Charlie Rose in a televised interview on Monday (golf clap to Jay Busbee for the tip). “I started thinking about the 12th hole. I’m on 11 and [I’m thinking about] the next shot and how I could birdie the next hole.”
Skipping ahead to your next shot before finishing the task at hand is a big no-no to New England golf instructor Seth Dichard, who preaches staying in the moment with a “solid, reliable pre-shot routine” forces players to “focus on the present and not on the past or future.
A good routine, Dichard told us Wednesday, was like flicking a switch.
“When you approach your ball that’s when the switch turns on and you must be focused, decisive, and committed to the present shot,” said the Tewksbury, Mass.-based golf teacher. Hit the shot, learn “something positive” about it, and then “turn off your switch (focus).
“Playing this way not only improves your mental game,” Dichard said, “but also your mental endurance over the course of an 18-hole round.”
By the 11th hole in the final round on Rory McIlroy’s favorite links course, Mickelson was still in contention to win his first Open. But with leader and eventual winner Darren Clarke cruising, Mickelson ditched a revamped links-golf game plan that he had executed almost to perfection.
Golf 101. The flubbed gimme on 11 caused Phil to revert back to his aggressive, go-for-broke “The Thrill” alter ego, and there went his chance for the Open Championship. After all, it’s Golf 101: stay in the moment and play one shot at a time — basics to which Mickelson conceded he had to return.
“Other things than making that putt were going through my mind and that’s something I’ve got to work on,” he said, “because missing a three-foot putt is not a technical thing, it’s more of a mental focus.
“Yeah,” Mickelson nodded, “it was [a brain freeze].”
The world’s sixth-ranked golfer conceded that the 11th-hole letdown was not the first time he had lost his place in a major narrative. After convincing his caddie that he had the swing and the ability to stuff that miraculous shot from the pine straw on 13 at Augusta in the 2010 Masters, Lefty whiffed the kick-in.
“It was four feet,” Mickelson recalled ruefully, “and then I missed the putt.”
That was Exhibit A as to why the big southpaw needed help with his mental game.
“That’s what I mean — the easier the shot, the more my mind wanders,” he said. “The same thing happened on 11…at the British Open; the easier the shot, the less focused I am, and that’s something I’ve got to work on.”
Mickelson noted he could put the blinders on in more challenging situations. “The harder the shot, the more I’m tuned in,” he said.
Help wanted. For the other times when he can’t seem to bear down, the 41-year-old who believes he has many more good years and any number of major championship wins left in him planned to seek the help of a third party to direct his mental workouts.
That sounded like a good idea to Dichard.
“Any mental coach would probably do [Mickelson] well if he feel he needs one,” said LPGA Tour and Boston golfer Alison Walshe’s long-time coach. “After all, he has already had a swing coach and a short-game coach [so] why not a mental coach? This could be the missing piece of the puzzle for him to win [more] majors.”
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