I normally don’t like to weigh in too much on tour pros and their games because let’s be honest, they are 100 times better at golf than I will ever be. What insight can a guy like me possibly have on someone like Kevin Na and his absurd pre-shot routine?
In this case I feel like I can actually add something to the conversation. Watching Kevin Na over the ball it was hard not to feel his pain. You could just see how badly he was struggling to feel any type of confidence in his ability to hit the shot he wanted. It is crazy to think that a guy who had taken the 54 hole lead at the Players wasn’t confident in his ability to pull the trigger, but that was exactly what happened. It works for guys like Jason Duffner who uses his waggle to calm himself down. He is a bit of an anomaly since he doesn’t have a set number of waggles, but once he is comfortable he pulls the trigger and strikes the ball. Na just never looks comfortable.
Some of the articles that have come out are ripping on Na for his slow play, but the poor guy doesn’t have the confidence to hit shots out on the PGA Tour and just handed over the Players Championship. Don’t you think that is punishment enough? I do. He will either figure out his mental block or he probably won’t be on tour much longer. I think the former.
As I have been working towards improving my own game, I can speak to the importance of a pre-shot routine you can trust. I used to not have a pre-shot routine and I often wondered if my ball was going to go right, left or even get off the ground. I decided to put a routine in place to try to build some confidence and consistency in my swing. Needless to say it really helps. I can feel myself using the pre-shot routine to channel positive thoughts regarding good shots I have hit in the past. Before I had the routine I would often have thoughts of bad shots I had hit instead of good thoughts. By sticking to the routine I know that I have hit good shots in the past and using the same routine makes me feel more confident that I can do it again.
Nowhere do I see this being more important than in putting. I believe a large part of putting is being able to let go and trust your line, speed and stroke. If you are worried about what is going to happen (aka the ball going in the hole) most of the time you won’t find the back of the hole. The rounds where I have putted my best were the rounds that I picked out lines I trusted and focused on hitting solid putts at the right speed. If I focus on those three things chances are a few putts are going to go down. This is the mentality I have tried to bring to my full swing and so far I have seen some good results. This isn’t the case with Na. You can just see how worried he is over the ball of where he is going to hit it. By worrying so much over the ball, especially in the last round, you could see the effect it took.
My point with all of this is, that if you don’t have a pre-shot routine you are comfortable with, spend some time and develop one. Once you have one you like, stick with it. Learn to trust it. Find comfort in it and once you go through it pull the trigger and move on to your next shot.