Monday, October 1, 2012
An Illusory Ryder Cup
What a golf spectacle we witnessed this weekend during the dramatic finish of the Ryder Cup in Medinah, Illinois!
For golf fans, the entertainment value is priceless. There is a case that can be made here for more coverage of college team golf. On the Professional tour, golf is normally such an individual sport. This competition demonstrates how the dynamic changes when there is the added pressure of playing out of loyalty to other team members and a (frequently rabid) fan base rather than for an individual monied purse.
The Ryder Cup provides a unique atmosphere to observe today's top golfers working outside of their comfort zone. On the other hand,
this proves to be exactly the type of environment that some less well known golfers can excel in.
This years Ryder Cup highlights the importance of mental focus and how the shifting pressures can lead some to less stellar performances while others excel. Pundits of this years Ryder Cup will be debating for a long time what led to the precipitous slide from a seemingly sure victory one day to a disappointing defeat the next.
One thing that can surely be said is that those golfers who are most comfortable with their swing styles have less to think about when attempting to finesse the ball to where they want it to land.
When there are so many uncontrollable variables such as the wind, the speed of the greens and shifting shade patterns, the Ryder Cup presents a set of unusual distractions such as more exuberant fans overlaid with the emotional component of team play.
In this environment it is essential to have bodies trained to endure the stresses of golf without becoming another variable. It could be argued that the lead gained coming into the last day created a 'premature decompression' that often comes after a tournament has finished.
What I mean by premature decompression is that there is always a let down after experiencing the high of intense competition. The body wants a break from the adrenaline rush as soon as the mind will allow it. Sometimes, when there is a seemingly insurmountable lead, the mind gives permission too soon for the body to take a break.
The possible result is a change in neural responses so that what are normally highly engrained movements become the victims of a 'focal dystonia' requiring greater mental effort to overcome.
While it is probably best to leave that to the sports psychologists to analyze, it does suggest a partial explanation as to why performances of the American Ryder Cup team were so comparatively poor on the last day.
Nevertheless, for us less proficient players, but highly proficient spectators of the game, it was a delight to watch regardless of the disappointing outcome for the United States team.
Here's to a Great Game!