How to Be Clutch

Saturday March 24th, 2007
Leibel, left, and Herman suit up. (Note: No golfers were harmed during this experiment.)
Lissa Gotwals

Whether you're scratch or a 22-handicapper, golf can make your hands tremble, knees wobble and another part of your anatomy feel a little tight. Fear not — you're about to become oblivious to pressure, make money putts and be known to friends and foes as the guy they just can't beat.\n

We found three players just like you, monitored their brainwaves and let them battle it out for $500. Here's what you can learn from our experiment. \n

THE LAB RATS
KEVIN LEIBEL

HANDICAP: 25 AGE: 44
BIGGEST FEAR: FIRST-TEE JITTERS\n

GABRIEL SZULIK
HANDICAP: 9 AGE: 40
BIGGEST FEAR: BUNKER SHOTS\n

STEVE HENRY HERMAN
HANDICAP: 12 AGE: 59
BIGGEST FEAR: BUNKER SHOTS\n

THE EXPERIMENT
Observe players as they compete during a round and a $500 putting contest while wearing heart-rate monitors and EEG sensors (which measure your brain's electrical activity) to determine how golf-related stress affects your mind and body.\n

THE LABORATORY
DUKE UNIVERSITY GOLF CLUB
DURHAM, N.C.\n

THE HEADMASTER
Dr. Richard Keefe, associate professor of sports medicine at Duke, a 6 handicap and author of the mental-game manual On the Sweet Spot.\n

CASE 1
FEAR OF THE FIRST TEE
\n

"My problem is that I can't not think about the trouble," Kevin Leibel said on the first tee. "That, and I tense up when I play with better golfers. I feel I don't belong. But today, I feel good." A glance at the digital wristwatch monitor revealed his heart rate: 89 beats per minute. He's cooler than Fonzie until he's reminded that 6 million readers are, in essence, about to watch him tee off. "Hey, thanks." He looked again at his wrist. "Wow, 93." Awkward laugh. "Now 99, 103, 107. I better swing before I pass out." The result: a frail push-slice. Heart rate: 122. Minutes later, after his partners split the fairway, Leibel found his tee shot, then topped two straight. His heart neared 130. "I hate messing up in front of better players," Leibel said. "Now I'm flustered."\n

Later, on the tee of the par-4 13th, Leibel's pulse tumbled from 120 to 94 after the other two unleashed wild tee shots; he then coolly launched his best drive, a 230-yard missile. "I hate saying this," Leibel admitted, "but when other guys mess up, it relaxes me. I think, 'OK, I'm one of them. I belong.' I have to remind myself that they don't care what I shoot. And I have to stop letting every little thought enter my mind on the tee."\n

How to conquer the first tee\n
By Bob Rotella, author of The Golfer's Mind\n

"My advice to anyone suffering from first-tee jitters is to develop a pre-shot routine and stick with it. Look at Tom Watson today and 25 years ago. Same routine. Two waggles and go, whether it's a major or a pro-am. A good preshot routine is like being in a quiet room, where pressure can't get you. Make it simple: Pick your target, see the shot and swing. Do your routine on the range before hitting your last 10 practice balls. Then take that same routine to the tee. Then the first tee won't own you — you'll own the tee."\n

CASE 2
FEAR OF SAND
\n

"No, stay up, ball! Stay up!" Gabriel Szulik barked after pulling his tee shot on the 167-yard par-3 12th, all carry over water to a peninsula green. ("This hole is heart-attack city," a fellow guinea pig said.) But Szulik wasn't worried about the lake. "I just wanted to stay out of the left bunker," he admitted. "I hate bunkers. I'd rather rinse it than go in the sand." The pounding muscle in his chest agrees: his heart rate rocketed 19 ticks to 111 beats per minute.\n







How to be the man from the sand


fearlessgolf.net CASE 3
FEAR OF SHORT PUTTS










How to be fearless on short putts




How to turn knee-knockers into tap-ins




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How to get ready for your big match









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