I SPENT two weeks in Australia recently playing our Open and PGA championships and, as always, it was a blast. There’s nothing like tournament golf, and having the competitive juices flowing again was a real thrill.
Making the weekend at the Aussie Open also justified the work I’d put in the previous two months to get my game in shape since I’m (sort of) retired these days. The PGA didn’t go quite as well, after my even-par score missed the cut by one stroke. I hate missing cuts but I’d played well and sometimes things just don’t go to plan.
Usually I don’t watch much golf after an MC but in this case, I was very keen to see how things unfolded. Earlier in the week, I’d played a practice round with Jordan Zunic, a talented young pro from New South Wales. A few months prior, his girlfriend and caddie, Olivia Marlow, had reached out after reading my book, Tour Mentality. She’d passed it on to Jordan and said they both really enjoyed it.
We caught up at the Aussie Open for a brief chat about his golf and I suggested we play a practice round the next week at the PGA. I wanted to take a closer look and judge whether his description of his game fit the reality. Since retiring and writing the book, I’ve started mentoring players so thought maybe I could offer Jordan some advice.
After several holes listening to Jordan and watching him put on an absolute clinic from tee to green, I said to Olivia, “He really doesn’t know how good he is, does he?”
We chatted the whole way round and what stood out most was he’d been too hard on himself when he didn’t hit the perfect shot or shoot a good score. This is not uncommon among tour pros making their way up the ranks. Jordan had won the New Zealand Open just after he turned pro and understandably his expectation levels since were pretty high. Unfortunately, this translated into being self-critical if he didn’t play well.
I offered some ideas on how to ease up on himself, as well as how to play a couple of shots that would be useful for the Royal Pines course and down the road. More importantly, I suggested two goals for the week, which were unrelated to results and more about the process. I’ve learned over many years in this game that no matter your skill level if you focus on and commit to the process, the results will take care of themselves.
As things turned out, this freed up Jordan to allow his unquestionable natural abilities to come to the fore. He opened with rounds of 66-69 and then tore the course apart on Saturday, going 11-under par through 16 holes! The finish wasn’t what he’d hoped for that day but it didn’t matter. He’d shot an eight-under 64 to take a three-shot lead into the final day. Watching all this felt like the scene from “The Matrix” where Morpheus tells Trinity about Neo: “He’s beginning to believe.”
The final round was a real test and I was thrilled how he and Olivia went about things all day. They both handled the rollercoaster of emotions with poise before eventually finishing runner-up to Cameron Smith on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff. It was captivating stuff and I was so happy for them.
What this means from now is unknown, but Jordan is starting to tap into the mental qualities that will allow him to maximise the enormous potential that many around him can see: that he’s better than he thinks he is.