After David Toms followed up two consecutive 62s with a four over 74 at Colonial, he analyzed his third round by saying he wasn’t as sharp as when he shot the 62s, but he also didn’t play poorly.
Instead, he noted that he got some bad breaks and bounces and some putts didn’t fall that might have fallen in his rounds of 62. At the same time, he acknowledged that he hit a few poor shots.
On one par 4, I unfortunately can’t recall which hole, his approach shot drew back off the green (at least partially bad luck) but he followed that up with a poor pitch (which he admitted), leading to a bogey.
What didn’t he do that most of us are likely to do after following up good play with poor play? If his interview words are to be believed, he didn’t start saying “I suck, why can’t I play anymore, I’ve lost it.” Instead, he said “I had a few bad breaks, I didn’t play great, but I don’t suck. I’m not losing it.” In psychological terms, he attributed his play to unstable and external factors (bad breaks aren’t your fault and can change), while he simultaneously took responsibility for some of the results. And he didn’t complain about the bad bounces, the wind, or whatever else he could have pointed at.
Toms’ reaction to his poor round is a nice example of how to maintain a modicum of psychological balance. Accept responsibility for what you can control and change, but at the same time recognize that a lot of life is luck and in the past, so don’t beat yourself up over what you can’t change. In fact, that’s the heart of the serenity prayer: accept what you can’t change, change what you can, and be wise enough to know the difference.
So if we wonder why David Toms could come back and win the Crowne Plaza Invitational after losing a playoff at the Players Championship the week before and blowing a 7 shot lead after the second round of the Crowne Plaza, it may be because he knows something about staying psychologically balanced while playing an infuriating, frustrating game.
I’ll try to remember that the next time I follow a birdie with a triple.