The U.S. Open is one of golf’s most prestigious tournaments. It’s also one of its most favorite tournaments. One reason why is the drama that always seems to accompany it. The Open is among your favorite majors “if you prefer a little High Noon mixed in with your golf,” as one writer put it. These dramatic finishes are often teaching moments. Often, it’s a pressure shot made by a golfer that helps determine the winner. But making pressure shots like these is a challenge even for the pros. But learning to make them can help you break 80 and lower your golf handicap.
First U.S. Open
The first U.S. Open took place on a nine-hole course at the Newport Country Club in Rhode Island. The 10 professionals and one amateur that competed in the tournament played 36 holes in a single day to decide the winner— a 21-year old Englishman named Horace Rawlins.
Rawlins received a $150 cash prize and a golf medal worth $50—a far cry from what today’s winner gets. The total purse was $335. Oddly enough, Rawlins worked at the host club. It received the first U.S. Open championship cup trophy, presented by the USGA.
Today, the U.S Open is now among golf’s most lucrative championship. This year’s winner, Martin Kaymer, took home $1.62 million. Erik Compton and Rickie Fowler, who tied for second got $789,330 each. The tournament’s total prize money was $8 million.
Most Dramatic Finishes
The U.S Open’s history includes some of the most dramatic finishes in all professional golf tournaments. Many, for example, consider Jack Nicklaus’s playoff win over Arnold Palmer in 1962 as the Open’s most dramatic duel. Palmer outplayed Nicklaus for 90 holes but lost the championship on the greens.
In 1982 Tom Watson turned the tables on Nicklaus. He defeated Nicklaus when he holed a wedge shot from dense rough on the 17th then followed that with a birdie on the 18th to seal the deal. And let’s not forget Payne Stewart’s win over Phil Mickelson, when Stewart drilled a 15-footer for par to win on the final hole.
Other notable U.S Open wins include Hale Irwin’s win over Mike Donald in 1999, when Irwin holed a 45-foot birdie on the final hole that set up a playoff. Then there was Fuzzy Zoeller’s dramatic win over Greg Norman in 1984.
In that one Norman sank a 45-foot putt on the final hole for par to tie the match. But Zoeller sank a 68-foot birdie on the second hole and shot a 67 to defeat Norman in the playoff. Zoeller’s 8-shot victory margin was the largest ever.
Process Thinking Required
Making dramatic shots like these are a challenge because of the pressure. It’s easy to let pressure get to you when so much is on the line. The key is to find a reliable way to not let pressure throw you.
The best weapon to combat pressure is process thinking. Process thinking involves doing things to “stay in the moment.” Instead of thinking about the shot’s outcome—the source of pressure, you focus either on what you need to do to make the shot or on something unrelated to the shot, like keeping a quiet peaceful mind.
A great example of process thinking is going through your pre-shot routine just before hitting a shot. This shifts your focus from the shot’s outcome to the act of hitting the shot. In other words, you shift your focus from the future to the present.
Process thinking helps you to stay in the moment on each shot or putt—despite the distractions that might lure you to do otherwise. These distractions can cause you to miss clutch shots.
Process thinking helps defeats pressure—even if you’re not playing in the U.S. Open. Employing process thinking correctly can help you not only break 80, but also cut strokes from your golf handicap without changing your swing.