But 2011 this was a lot worse than that! Steve and I have worked together since 2002 mostly on developing his mental skills and practicing skills.
I asked Steve to share his experience struggling to regain lost form of the past 15 months and what he discovered has helped him to regain his form and develop more confidence in himself and his game than ever before.
Steve has just played himself out of one of the worst periods (performance wise) since joining the tour and has learned some valuable lessons that I thought would be helpful for any golfer who is experiencing a performance slump...
I had a tough end to 2010 with my dad passing away in late November, and a couple of other family members passing away in January. I am still not sure if this had any impact on my bad golf, but I guess it would not have helped my mindset.
I played the Volvo China Open in April and missed the cut by a shot. In the closing holes I hit some pull hooks which I was not very happy with. So at the end of the event, I sat down and thought to myself, if I want to compete in these events, I have to improve my technique and get rid of these shots. I had about 3 weeks off before my next 2 event stint in Korea.
I didn’t set out to damage my game but looking back now, you have to be very careful with the information you receive and act on. It felt good on the range and I could see some improvement on the camera. When I arrived in Korea my practice rounds and range work was all trying to move the ball left to right.
It felt ok, but not great. I kept telling myself to stick with it and trust it. But under the gun I was still trying to hit it left to right, and missed a couple of shots way right. Now my normal miss was left.
Suddenly I thought, where am I going to miss it?? My brain came up with the answer, I don’t know!!
Now, instead of having a good idea where my bad one went, I had no idea which caused a massive “fight” in my brain. Half way through my 1st event my brain came to the decision that it didn’t know where it was going to go, so it didn’t want me to hit anything at all.
So now, once one of the best ball strikers in Australia, I couldn’t swing through a wedge past my left hip. I was hitting 7 irons 70m right and left. On top of that, I felt like throwing up and was shaking so much that I couldn’t fill in a score card until the end of the round. It wasn’t real fun spending 5 hours a day feeling like this.
I was close to giving up at the end of 2011.
What I couldn’t understand is that I was saying all the right things to myself on the course. "Trust it, commit, believe." But still my mind in the “heat of battle” I would think of only where I didn’t want the ball to go, instead of where I wanted it to go.
But over months of consistent mental training, through which time I spent many hours picturing myself hitting great shots, shooting great scores and performing basic NLP techniques I learned from Lawrie on myself, my unconscious mind started to believe that I could hit the shots.
At the start I was only occasionally hitting good shots, but that was a huge improvement from hitting none!! But these occasional good shots were very important, with my mind actually saying to itself, "maybe I CAN hit great golf shots."
So over the last few months my belief has grown as strong or stronger than it ever has. For a lot of my professional career my belief and confidence has always been below the level of my ability.
But now, since I have been down to what I call the bottom of professional golf, I see that it is important to have your belief and confidence, way above your skill level.
Before every competitive round I spend time in a quiet place, picturing and feeling how good I can play. By the time I am ready to hit the course, I feel like a rugby league player running out onto the football field, pumped and ready to perform.
I still hit bad shots and have bad thoughts. But there is a lot less of them now due to my belief in myself and my game.
David and I wish Steve the very best of luck for the upcoming Australian tournament season and Japan Tour School.