Today, Angel Cabrera beat top-notch PGA Tour players like Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell to win the 2009 Masters at age of 39. When I first heard about Cabrera about 10 years ago, I saw him playing on the European Tour on Golf Channel. Of course, Angel was always winning tournaments. A native Argentinian, it was always fun to see one single gifted South American beating all the European tour players in European Tour.
That was almost 10 years ago and I guess Angel Cabrera will play in America from time to time including this year’s Masters. Angel Cabrera is probably the player who deserved to win this year’s Masters in the playoff.
For the record, Angel Cabrera has won a major on U.S. soil before, the 2007 U.S. Open, one of the most coveted majors on one of the hardest golf courses in the world, Oakmont Country Club. In contrast, Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry both never have won majors.
Although they all finished with same scores, it was clear to me that Angel was the only player who had “dealt” with the final moments of pressure. After the fact that he’s 2nd shot on the 1st playoff hole rickashaded short of the green, Cabrera was unfazed and made an easy par with a great pitch shot.
Of course, things could “easily” have different if Cabrera missed his putt but he didn’t, he “knew” how to deal with the press.
On the other hand, Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell might have come close but nothing close to Cabrera’s mental strengths.
Clearly, Kenny Perry had a meltdown on the last two holes, making bogeys. (and yes, Tiger and Phil sorta did the same thing.) It was unbelievable to some viewers because Kenny Perry was making birdies and had a 2-shot lead coming into the 17th hole.
I noticed that around the 15th hole, as Kenny Perry was approaching the final holes of his last round, he seemed to play more cautiously and noted here on Twitter:
#Masters Kenny Perry is playing too cautiously, it’s gonna cost him in the last 3 holes, betcha bogeys.
And after bogey on 17th, here’s my tweet:
#Masters Kenny Perry falling apart, I foresee him not winning, no offense kenny lovers.
At that point, he should have been more confident but I KNEW he was “worried” in his mind, his body language and the way he played clearly showed that Kenny Perry was suddenly worried about his lead.
#Masters PRESSURE is ON at the last 2 holes, MELTDOWN for players who can’t handle the Master’s last-2-hole-pressure!
I have read tons of golf psychology books in my lifetime and that’s what you don’t ever want to do on the golf course at the last stages of the tournament, worry about your lead or even “think” about your score. (You can read about this from Rob Rotella’s book, “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect”, very good book on golf psychology. I read it when it came out 10+ years ago.)
This is simply what I “see” in a player when watching tournament golf, derived from junior, amateur, and pro golf tournament experience. I am sure some of you scratch golfers will agree.
Did Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell have a Meltdown in the Playoffs?
You betcha, no player should really win with a par in a playoff unless the other players experience meltdowns. Kenny Perry’s confidence disappeared on the 15th hole when he started playing cautiously, he’s mind told him that he’s not going to win. Chad Campbell hit his bunker shot mediocre, (even though he holed a bunker shot in the same day! He is a good bunker player.) and missed a short putt for par. (shorter than Cabrera’s par putt)
These are signs of weaknesses in Perry and Campbell’s mental states, it’s not good for the playoff holes.
Don’t get me wrong, Perry and Campbell still have won many, many PGA Tournaments, they will beat 99.9% of the world population in golf including me probably 365 days out of 365 days in the year. But what they lacked is experience and “mental” state required for winning Major championships.
A good example of that is Tiger Woods. We have seen numerous times Tiger seemed to “will” his way into winning majors. Of course, Tiger is human too, he can’t win all the majors. I think today Tiger and Phil actually fed off each other during the whole round, Phil shooting an unbelievable 6 under 30 on the front while Tiger made every short to medium putt until the last two holes.
The reason why Tiger and Phil failed is they were playing too aggressive. Tiger pulled a driver out on the last hole, when he had been using 3-wood all day long. They were both trying to beat each other too much in the end, when they should have simply played their own games in crucial moments of pressure. This ultimately ended up in Tiger/Phil meltdown at the end although it did helped them go WAY under during the round.
The last 3 holes of golf has always proven to be either extremely detrimental or explosively helpful for golfers including me. I can recall countless times when I “birdied” the last 3 holes to win OR I made a 10 on the last hole that costed me the trophy.
The last 3 holes of golf always “test” your true mental strengths and in today’s case, Tiger, Phil, and Kenny all FAILED although Chad finished pretty good until the playoffs.
Another thing to note, heck, I was rooting for Tiger but the world doesn’t end if he doesn’t win. Golf is simply not about winning, it’s what you do with the results.
Who knows, Chad Campbell is still young and I am sure he will win Masters one day. Kenny Perry has made a living from the PGA Tour, makes more money than 99.9% of the population. I don’t see anything wrong with that other than people should be able to get a better perspective of reality.
Perhaps, Phil, Tiger, Chad, and Kenny all wanted to win so badly that it affected their game. On the other hand, Angel Cabrera played horribly in the beginning of the round, sorta disappeared from the spotlight, and slowly creeped up on the leaders. This might have helped him rally to win the playoff.
Mental Tip for the Day
In my competitive tournament experience, I have learned that if you “slowly” play better in the round and start hitting the fairways/sinking putts nearing the end of the round, that always results in better scores and top mental state.
This tip you can take with you. The next time you double-bogey your first hole, just remember golf isn’t finished until you hit your ball in the hole at the 18th.
Both Phil and Tiger started playing lights out from the beginning, their adrenalin was running so high, it was inevitably hard to control near the end of the round. It’s like you got a 350 horsepower car that might not stop if you go too fast.
Even Kenny Perry was “leading” the tournament from hole 1 to 18th hole but he started “bogeying” everything starting on the 17th hole, not good.
Your mental state in golf is critical to your success in golf. Your perfect swing is never going to help you hit the ball in the fairway if your mind’s somewhere else under pressure. I can recall countless times when I had been shooting under par consistently before a tournament, only to “lose” my swing suddenly in competition. (maybe that’s why I am not on the PGA Tour…yet.)
How to achieve the mental state required to play under pressure?
As a player, I have played good at various times too, those times I usually felt like I was “home” or simply “relaxed”.
Here’s some tips on how to feel “relaxed” during your round:
- To feel relaxed, you need to make sure to “visualize” your outcome during the round and don’t be too “aggressive” on holes that you don’t have to.
- Develop and hit your “bread-and-butter” shots. Sometimes, I even hit a low-screaming knock-down shot with my 3-iron on short par 4s and my playing partners are like, “did you miss that?”. No, i can hit that low screamer at my target 9 out of 10 times, even under pressure.
- If you start playing bad on the course, take at least couple days off golf. Those mental pictures you keep putting in your head will end up in vicious cycle of bad rounds thereafter. You need to get those out of your system. If I were Phil, Tiger, Kenny, or Chad, I would take at least a week off golf before I even “touch” a club. Trust me, your golf memories are EVERYTHING in golf.
- When you practice, make sure you hit perfect shots, meaning take every step of your pre-shot routine to ensure 100% quality in your shot. Don’t just bang balls one after another, that’s worse than just sitting on your couch. It’s ALL about your mental memories of your previous “good” shots.
- Especially for shorter shots like short game and putting, practice with 5 to 10 balls. Don’t dump your golf balls and bang away. Treat each shot like it’s REAL. If you hit a bad chip shot and it comes up 20 feet short of the pin, CLEAR your balls and start over so you don’t SEE or REMEMBER your bad shots.
- Keep tricking your brain on a consistent daily-basis that you only hit “perfect” shots.
Well, that was a long post that included my thorough analysis of the top golfers at today’s Masters from a pro golfer and my “mental” tips on your golf game. You won’t get this from the announcers on TV (because it’s not their job), subscribe to my blog and please leave any other tips in the comments line or @progolferdigest that might be helpful to other golfers.
Congratulations to Angel Cabrera from ProGolferDigest.com and keep up your great “major” works: