It was just one shot. His opening shot! Rory McIlroy’s shot flew out of bounds to the left on his first swing at the opening hole of his first round of the competition. The result was a triple-bogey.
“I got off to the worst start possible,” he said.
And it almost cost Rory a lot of money.
Numerous studies conducted by golf statisticians, trainers, and other experts have shown that hitting more birdies is not the secret to satisfaction in the game. It’s becoming adept at avoiding large numbers.
You may be shocked to find that compared to a player with a 20 handicap, a scratch handicap only produces two extra birdies every round. That’s because double bogeys and worse serve as the crucial divider between the two rather than birdies. Higher handicaps make more than two every round, whereas scratch handicaps make less than one.
The best course of action, for both experts and beginners, is to do all within your power to prevent them from happening in the first place. That’s more said than done, as Rory demonstrated last week. But this week, he pulled off the extraordinary achievement of actually recovering from one.
It took a few things to go his way, but those are the kinds of breaks needed on the PGA Tour in order to win a trophy.
Let’s examine his methodology.
- He made the error right away
Making a huge mistake early is harmful for a ton of unspoken reasons. One of the many negative effects of starting with a double is that it will make the remainder of your round difficult. Getting a huge number early also eliminates any chance for recovery for the rest of us. It implies that in order to avoid making things worse, we would likely need to play really well.
Making his only large score of the competition on the opening hole, though, was a gift in disguise in some respects. Although he didn’t get off to the start he had hoped for, he still had 71 holes to make up the difference as there was no cut to contend with.
He commented after his first round, “The golf course was really soft and really gettable.” “I knew there was a lot of holes out there that you could birdie.”
The first thing the rest of us can take up from Rory’s round is to be cool, patient, and unflappable if you make a high score early. Move on after accepting it.
- He learned from it
But Rory not only acknowledged his error, but also took steps to rectify it.
Rory’s drive to the left was the consequence of a continuing swing problem he had previously encountered. He prepared to make a cut, but ended up double-crossing his drive. Rory said that instead of rotating through with his body, his torso halted, and his hands closed the clubface.
He continued, “I tried to hit this little guidey cut into the fairway. My body stopped, double-crossed it, ball went left and OB. There’s a lesson in there somewhere, but even when you’re not sure about what you’re trying to do, sort of going full send for me is the best way forward.”
But as you can see, he took something away from it. More importantly, he continued to hit cuts in spite of it. Knowing what went wrong the previous time, he repeatedly and successfully used his cut in his last round.
- His putter got very hot
The reality remains: You’ll need to do a number of really positive actions to make up for a particularly poor swing.
According to the Strokes Gained metric, Rory dropped 2.25 strokes behind the field as a result of his double-crossed drive on his first hole. That’s a significant number of shots to drop in one swing of the club, so it takes some heroics to recover enough to claim the tournament.
That essentially implies making a shot that goes in the hole. Even after Rory holed out for an eagle on the sixth hole of his first round, just 1.62 of the 2.25 lost strokes were recovered. Holing out shots isn’t exactly a sustainable tactic, as he still needed to locate a half-shot someplace to go back to even. In actuality, sinking putts is the only way to make up for truly awful shots.
And Rory’s situation was the same. During his final round, he made a ton of crucial putts, including ones of 11 feet on his sixth hole, 17 feet on his seventh hole, and 33 feet on his fifteenth hole. Together, the three putts, which had tour average make rates of 18, 30, and 5%, made up for the OB drive earlier in the week.
While Rory heated up, he got Scottie Scheffler’s assistance, and ultimately narrowly prevailed to claim the title of deserved champion. He also gave us some important advice on how difficult it is to correct mistakes along the road.
Original article posted on Golf.com
Photo credit: PGA Tour