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Patience: How Gary Woodland Won the U.S. Open

Patience is such a difficult thing for golfers. You would think, with golf being one of the slowest games you can play, where sometimes you have to wait as long as 10 minutes to hit your next shot, golfers would be the most inclined to be naturally patient. But this just isn’t the case.

Golfers are probably the most impatient people you’ll meet. They want instant gratification in a game that takes months and years to see actual improvement. And this causes some deep tension. Nothing is going to cause more frustration than wanting something and not getting it.

And golf does that. It seems like such a simple task, yet perfection is so elusive.

But take it from the very best in the game: golf is a very, very long game.

And I’m not talking long as in the distance that you have to hit the ball (it’s that too). I’m talking about the amount of time that it takes to see marked improvement or change being an incredibly long amount of time.

Let’s look at Gary Woodland. How long have we (golfers and the collective golf industry) been saying that Gary Woodland should win a major. Not as long as Rickie Fowler or Matt Kuchar, but a very long time. And that’s primarily because of his ball striking and enormous length off the tee. Yet he just hadn’t gotten it done until this year’s U.S. Open.

So what did Gary Woodland’s journey look like? His first years on tour he was basically just plodding along, making a lot of cuts but not scaring very many wins. But then in 2012 and 2013, Gary made some big changes. He hired Mark Steinberg as his agent, changed instructors from Butch Harmon to Claud Harmon so he could get more focus from his instructor. And he hired a performance coach, Julie Elion, who is based out of Atlanta. These dramatic changes he made to his team materialized very quickly into a win at the Reno Tahoe Open. And Gary’s praise for the value of a performance coach couldn’t be much higher. (A great story on this here)

This is the point in the article when I could say “See? Gary hired a mental coach and won immediately. And that’s why you should hire me.” But that is not what I’m going to say. Instead of begging you, I’m going to warn you. Yes, I’m going to try to scare you OUT of hiring me.

From the outside, Gary’s timeline looks simple. Hire mental coach = win tournament. But what happened before and after that change in coaches is what’s more important. What happened before and after can be summed up in one word: time. A lot of time had to teach Gary the necessity of hiring a coach. But even when he hired one, a lot of time went by before winning his first major, which was no doubt a front-burner goal for a player as good as he is.

Six years went by before Gary finally won his first major. SIX YEARS! 6 years is an eternity in today’s day and age. I am actually genuinely interested in how many people would sign up for a 6 year improvement plan. In a culture where we all look for a 6 minute improvement plan, how could I ever get you to buy in to a 6 year journey?

But this is it. This 6 years (or 2 years or 8 years or 18 years or 49 years) is where success lies. It lies in having a huge goal, creating a plan to reach that goal, forgetting the goal, and working the plan. With blinders on. Knowing full well that it could take you the rest of your life before it pans out. That’s the scary part that is the opposite direction or where most golfers are looking. But to be different, to stand out, to actually be successful, this is the mindset that you have to have.

You have to make the decisions now, change the behavior now, and enjoy the journey.

And get to work.


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