With The Open fast approaching, the golf world has been abuzz after Jason Dufner’s recent performance at the Memorial Tournament.
The 33-year-old from Utah seemed dead and buried after a third-round 77, but took advantage of a calamitous final round from three-shot leader Daniel Summerhays to grab his very first PGA Tour title. His secret? Zen meditation.
Other golfers may scoff about meditation in golf, but the results are undeniable. When asked about it, Dufner recalled reading articles in the off-season about snipers changing their breathing to control their heart rate and, therefore, nerves. He then devised his own putting technique that used meditational breathing to stay deadly calm at the crucial moment.
Specifically, he breathes deeply and slower when addressing the ball, taking the putter back only after exhaling. He then counts to two and swings. As someone that has been held back in the past by his putting, his final day putting performance at the Memorial suggests there is method to the perceived madness.
Image credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Jason Dufner is not the only player to have adopted meditative breathing techniques to help their game, however. Luke Donald, for instance, reached the World Number 1 spot in 2012 – but then began a seemingly endless downward spiral. He credits a turn to mediation in golf from 2014 onwards with halting the fall and giving him a return to recent form. “It’ll take about two breaths before the thoughts start,” he joked.
Plenty of players use similar breathing techniques, but don’t necessarily identify it directly as mediation. For instance, Anirban Lahiri tied for second at the Memorial Tournament – the same event where Jason Dufner won – with a stunning bogey-free final round of 65.
When discussing his performance, he seemed to echo Dufner’s sentiments about remaining calm. “Sometimes when you push yourself harder, it works against you,” he said. “And I feel that was what was happening. I just tried to lay back and just stick to doing what I do well, which is just stay calm and relaxed on the golf course. I wasn’t in a good frame of mind, and I think that’s what’s changed this week.”
Image credit: Reuters
Lahiri will now attempt to use the same mindset at this week’s US Open, as will fellow competitor Justin Rose – a man similarly determined to stay calm under pressure. When asked about his narrow loss to Sergio Garcia at the Masters earlier this year, the subject of calm focus came up once again.
“Ultimately that’s what paid off for me, that patience,” he said. “I can only say from the Olympics and the Masters, that was the calmest I’ve felt on a golf course in recent times. I know I can’t afford to get frustrated and lose my head.”
We asked three-time Ryder Cup captain and Golf Care ambassador, Bernard Gallacher, about the idea of meditation in golf too.
“In terms of top players, Gary Player has been using yoga breathing since he was a young man – nearly 50 years! I’ve used it in the past myself when I was nervous and needed to relax on the course. You breathe in through your nose to the count of seven and then fully exhale through the mouth – couple of times in a row and it helps.
More players should use it. I’m surprised more don’t.”
Staying calm and relaxed. Staying patient. Sounds pretty Zen to us. Whether it will pay off in this week’s US Open for any of the meditative competitors remains to be seen.
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