Big Play: Focus on one shot at a time to go low like Carl Pettersson

Carl Pettersson shot a career-best 60 on Saturday at the Canadian Open, then backed it up with a closing 67 to win the tournament.
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Who: Carl Pettersson
What: A career-low 10-under-par 60
When: Third round of the RBC Canadian Open
Where: St. George's Golf & Country Club

Perhaps nothing more clearly demonstrates how mental golf is than our insatiable focus on score and how such a focus usually hurts, rather than helps. Most amateurs are intensely aware of their score for a round relative to par, to a certain benchmark (80, 90, etc.) or to their personal bests for that course or their careers. For example, a golfer on the 15th tee might think, "I'm only seven over par for the day and if I par the last four holes I'll break 80." Almost always, thinking like that will cause you to blow up during the last few holes.

\nTour players, including Pettersson, don't think about score like that. It sounds old fashioned, but it's true: pros play one shot at a time. They give full attention to the shot, forgetting, for the most part, what happened before the shot and what comes later. A mindset like that frees the pro up to let it rip.

\nAfter shooting 60, Pettersson said that he was "in a blur" for most of the round and that he didn't think about shooting 59 until the 17th hole. Pettersson purposely avoided thinking about his score to help him play better. "You sort of get in your own little zone and just keep going," said Pettersson. "You don't really want to think about it, and your mind works against you. So I just try to just blank everything out."

\nTHE DRILL: I teach golfers to stay aggressive from the first tee until the last putt at 18. Never play the last few holes trying to not make bogeys, but rather always try to make birdies. If somebody stumbles at the end while maintaining an aggressive attitude, that's fine. But it's not okay to mess up and have a defensive attitude, which induces fear and doubt.

\nMy lowest round was a 10-under 62 at Norvelt Golf Club in Mt. Pleasant, Pa. I was about 17 years old. I parred the first hole, birdied number two and made a three-putt bogey at the fourth. Then I turned into a birdie machine, draining putts of all lengths. I knew it was a special round, but I never focused on my score. I was too happy making birdies. But at 17, I had a 10-foot putt for par, and I studied the putt for a long time. A playing partner walked over and told me to stop thinking about what I might shoot and focus on the putt. I listened and holed the putt. That was the only doubt I had all day. I finished with a birdie at 18.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Steve Bosdosh is the director of instruction at The Members Club at Four Streams in Beallsville, Md.

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