Tag Archives: Brooks Koepka

Does Winning Define You?

Tiger Woods’ career winning percentage is 22.8.  Jack Nicklaus’ is 12.0.  Pretty low.  Are these guys considered losers?  We view these icons as outstanding despite the constant defeats.  The answer is how you define winning.  If you play golf professionally or recreationally, and regularly compete in large field events, you’d better take some joy out of the process of trying because your chances of winning aren’t great.

I was struck by the recent comments of Milwaukee Bucks star player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, after being eliminated from the playoffs and being asked if he felt like a failure.  He remarked about Michael Jordan and that Jordan had played 15 years and won six championships, and that the other nine years couldn’t be defined as a failure.  His perspective was spot on and is applicable to golf, all sports, and many aspects in life.  You must immerse yourself in the joy of the process to feel successful because if you confuse effort with results, you’ll be disappointed.    

Some days you play great and just get beat.  Other days you stink and win anyway.  What’s fascinating is the people in professions where failures outnumber successes and how they persevere and are viewed through history.  Sonny Jergensen and Dan Marino were Hall of Fame quarterbacks and never won the Super Bowl.  Were they failures?  The greatest major league hitters fail seven out of every 10 at bats.  Are they losers?  I have the utmost respect for the millions of people in sales who face constant rejection.  The outbound sales success rate for my company is 4%.  I can’t imagine dealing with constant failure and still feeling positive about myself.  How do they do it?

In golf, the most pertinent head case is Rory McIlroy and his quest to complete the career Grand Slam with a Masters victory.  Heading into Augusta this year he had hired renown sports psychologist, Dr. Bob Rotella, and seemed to be doing everything right but fell flat on his face and missed the cut.  Rotella champions process before results more than anyone, but I’m wondering if his teaching is getting through.    Rory seems to be outthinking and out preparing himself and would be better off just going out and playing.  It must be infuriating watching Brooks Koepka piling up major championships with not a bother in the world.  Brooks thinks less and just goes out and plays.

The key is to take small successes out of the process.  Major league hitters know they will fail often but consider a good At Bat a success.  If you made the pitcher throw eight pitches to get you out, that’s a success for the team.  If the sales person gets a return call or email from a prospect, that’s a successful contact even if it doesn’t result in a closed deal.  If I try a new shot in practice and can pull it off during a game of golf, that’s a success even if my score doesn’t reflect it.  Immerse yourself in the process and let the results take care of themselves.

Play well!

Inside the Brilliant Mind of Brooks Koepka

Photo from Golf Digest

What makes him tick?  As we approach the final major of the season, my intrigue continues to grow with his amazing success.  He is extraordinary in the big events but rather ordinary in the regular tour stops.  How does he turn on the mental supercharger for the majors?  Few athletes in history have been able to turn it on in big events to the same extent.  Great golfers like Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods demonstrated fantastic ability to concentrate, but their performance was more evenly distributed across all their events.

Sports fans old enough to remember the Hall of Fame running back John Riggins, recall Riggo hated to practice and almost never did.  He was often in the hospital injured during the week, or out carousing and making trouble, but come game day, he could turn on an amazing level of focus and concentration and performed brilliantly.  Football is a sport where you are very dependent on the performance of others.  Golf is not.  Koepka has no offensive line to run behind which makes his majors performances even more remarkable.

In perhaps his greatest book on sports psychology (How Champions Think), Bob Rotella sites “single-mindedness” as the most important key.  The greats demonstrate it time and again and sometimes at the cost of other important aspects in their lives.  Tiger certainly had single-mindedness and learned it from his dad.  Maybe his personal failings later in life were a cry for help due to the strains of single-mindedness at an early age.  Michele Wie’s parents tried to enforce single-mindedness before she was ready and may have ruined a great golf career.

Koepka doesn’t appear to be single-minded at all.  He doesn’t sweat the majors any more than you or I would going to an important meeting at the office.  He does abide by a corny half-baked idea that it’s easier to win the majors because he has fewer opponents that will be in contention for a variety of reasons.  Does that really work; can you trick yourself into performing better by simply believing you are superior?  For example, could your son or daughter excel in an important event like taking the SAT and expect superlative performance by thinking half the other students in the class will choke under the pressure?  There may be some truth to it.

More importantly, is there something we (the average amateur) can adopt from his approach that will help our games?  Think back to a time when you put on a great performance for a big event.  A couple months back, I presented at a professional conference and was rather nervous at the thought of getting up in front of my peers for an hour.  What if I stumbled or said something stupid?  But, I nailed the presentation.  How?  I practiced the heck out of it until I was so sick of it I could do it forwards and backwards.  On a few occasions, I’ve been able to mentally trick myself into performing better on the golf course by playing without any swing thoughts, but that doesn’t sustain for more than a few holes.  The only tried and true method I’ve found is consistent practice, but it’s important to get feedback from someone other than yourself during the practice.  I did that presentation alone and for family members and got constructive feedback that made it better.

So next time you’re on the practice tee or working short game, ask for feedback.  In the best case, get it from a professional instructor.  Learn the right way and practice.

And yes, Brooks Koepka is my pick for the 2019 British Open.  I’ll ride him until he bucks me off.

Play well.

Brooks Koepka And Zero Swing Thoughts

Brooks Koepka. Photo by Golf Digest

It’s been hard to miss if you’ve been watching end-to-end Masters coverage this week.  Every interview with Brooks Koepka inevitably zeros in on his “think of nothing” swing strategy.  I love it and find the psychological aspects fascinating.  Having tried myself, I found it tremendously difficult.  Nick Faldo said that he doesn’t believe he can do it.  Readers, like Vet4golfing51, claim to be able to do it without issue.  Can you do it?

Playing with no swing thoughts implies that you have 100% trust in your swing.  Bob Rotella, famous sports psychologist, advocates for the “Train it Trust it” method.  In Golf Is Not A Game Of Perfect, he draws on examples of athletes throwing away mechanical thoughts and just thinking of shooting at a targets to free up their bodies for better performance.  Makes perfect sense.

If Koepka can truly play and only focus on where to hit the ball, he has a tremendous advantage.  The guy certainly has no lack of confidence and is building a track record of success.  Maybe there’s an overabundance of some brain chemical that allows him to play that way, or maybe he’s not telling the truth, but the results speak for themselves.

On the occasions I’ve dabbled in the strategy, I’ve either made a conscious effort to just “think target” or have been so frustrated with my game, I threw out all swing thoughts just attempting to relax.  The one planned effort lasted 16 holes during a round in Myrtle Beach.  The experience was weird, as if I had lost all control of my game but was rather successful.  I didn’t feel like I could control my shots but never hit one terribly off line.  Then the inevitable swing thought crept in on the 17th hole and I returned to a normal state.  Normal state would constitute working with a single swing key, and possessing enough knowledge about your own game to make mid-round adjustments.  Jack Nicklaus was a proponent of this approach and certainly has the record to back it up.

How close can you get to playing with zero swing thoughts?