[PHOTO: Richard Heathcote]
One of the many subtle brilliances of the Ryder Cup is that the build up lingers for a day longer than it should.
Players arrive on site the Sunday before, just as they would for a major championship and did for this Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club. Players on both sides crawl through their two nine-hole practice rounds and media obligations, and then Thursday rolls around. Though rather than the tournament getting underway as it would ordinarily, there’s another day to wait around, doing the same thing. Players go from ready to waiting; thinking, about what happens next.
Then, on Friday, it’s finally time. What once felt lingering is now an explosion of excitement and emotion as they arrive on the first tee. It’s such an epic ebb and flow that it sends players into a spiral. Their heart rate spikes wildly, and their breath shortens rapidly. Players feel a level of nervousness that they never have before—like when Scottie Scheffler said he couldn’t feel his arms on the first tee of the Ryder Cup.
There’s no pressure like Ryder Cup first-tee pressure. And when your task is hitting the opening tee shot for your team on Friday morning, the nerves heighten even more.
How do players navigate the terrifying task of hitting a golf ball, with millions of people watching and feeling more nervous than you’ve ever been? Just ask Justin Rose…
When you’re nervous, try to go slow
Rose isn’t hitting the opening tee shot this time around—at the 2023 contest, that task will fall to one of either Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns, or Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton—but he’s hit the first shot of the Ryder Cup on three different occasions. He’s been in the first group of a session an astonishing nine times. For close to a decade, Rose was the steady hand Europe turned to hit the shot.
And for Rose, it all comes down to one thing: trying to go really, really slow.
“When the lights are bright and the music is loud, you tend to subconsciously do things faster,” Rose says. “Be aware of that psychological, natural reaction.”
Rose says that when you have a task to perform under intense pressure—whether it’s hitting a golf ball or something that extends beyond golf—your body will naturally try to ramp up, quickly. It’s an instinctual stress reaction designed to help us run away or fight our way out of danger. Feeling like you’re going slower will feel tedious and over-exaggerated at times at times, Rose says, but it will counter-act your human tendency to go fast, and bring you back to normal pace.
“Suck in some air, walk a little slower, try to bring your breathing pace down and just do everything a little slower generally… focus on the basics,” he says. “There’s no easy way to get through it.”
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This article was originally published on golfdigest.com