“Knowing when to question, when to adapt, when to trust”.
Before I wrote this, I reread the blog I wrote after I won last year. Then, I was trying to make sense of how a win – and a win where I felt so completely in control of myself and my game – could come about so soon after feeling completely lost. So soon after missed cuts, after doubts about whether or not I had what it takes, so soon after wondering if I’d maxed out on my potential. Don’t get me wrong, during that week at Coffs Harbour I knew exactly what I was capable of. I knew I had what it took to win that tournament. But it took a lot of questioning to get there.
This year was different.
I went through those cycles again while I was out in Australia – the questioning, the doubts, the confirmation, the trust. But it was different. Maybe it was quicker; maybe everything I’ve learnt over the last year kicked in and I knew which answer I was being led to, day by day, week by week. Maybe I asked better questions. Maybe I asked less questions. My results followed a slightly more understandable pattern – MC, 22nd, 16th, 6th, 1st. It looks gradual on paper, but I was getting a little antsy… maybe in a similar way that Rory would have been before the Players. (I know how different the environment and situations are, but the nature of golf is still the same, no matter who you are or how much money you’re playing for). Even though I’d only been properly in contention once in the weeks before I won, I knew my game was all there to win from the moment I stepped onto a course in Australia at the end of January. And even though I knew that would show itself if I just kept doing the right things, just kept making those little tweaks – perhaps like Rory – you can’t help but get edgy that you should be taking advantage of where your game is… before it inevitably dips somewhere.
From the offset in Australia, I felt different. Different in myself, different in my game. I knew things were better… knew my game had gone up a notch. And that was one of things that got in my way at the beginning. I missed the cut at the Vic Open partly because it got windy, and partly because I wasn’t sure how to handle my own expectations with better golf than I’d seen in myself before. In contrast, I missed the cut at the Vic Open the year before because I hit a few bad shots in the second round and thought that all the things I’d been working on were a step too far; that my weaknesses were destined to outweigh my strengths. Luckily, or because I’ve learned a lot in a year, or because I listened to some people better, the rationality came quicker. Day by day, week by week, I figured out how to handle those expectations. That’s the beauty of playing regularly – it gives you a chance to figure things out as you go, without overthinking them (even though I still try)… and if you’re playing well, it’s just a case of finding the right piece to fit at the right time. My camera roll from Australia tells its own story – mixed in with the pictures of beaches and kangaroos and coffee are videos of swings, of using technical aids in the back garden of Air BnBs in the dark, of putting along a rail on a carpet with an alignment stick wedged in between two chairs to keep your hands where they’re supposed to be. All little glimpses of the process. Of the questions, and the steps in the right direction that you’re not quite sure are the right direction at the time.
The difficulty with golf is figuring out which piece is the right piece. And not moving the right piece before you realise it’s where it’s supposed to be. My blogs are really just a succession of me trying out different pieces in different places at different times – they’re a little fragment of the mess of my brain that slides its way into the right place in the jigsaw. The difference for me this year so far, I think, is that I’m recognising when to leave certain pieces alone; when something just needs to be turned slightly rather than thrown back into the box or forced somewhere it doesn’t belong. Winning last year happened when I didn’t think I had any of the pieces in the right place, but I trusted enough to let them be. Winning this year happened because I knew I had a lot of the pieces in the right place, and I turned the right one at the right time.
None of us know what our finished picture looks like, but I think we all try too hard to create what we think it’s ‘supposed’ to be. We’re better off trying, and failing, and trying again with the process – doing the right things; analysing, monitoring, working, grinding, questioning, adapting, worrying, ignoring, improving, trusting. Sometimes you get the results and sometimes you don’t. But the sooner we all realise it’s ok to do things our own way, the sooner we will all end up right where we are meant to.