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July 31 2013

5:17 PM

On the Mark: Mahan's frame of mind

Hunter Mahan performance in Canada shows he is close to winning a major. (Martin/Getty Images)

By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM

As always, the RBC Canadian Open drew a stellar field as a number of the TOUR’s top names traveled back from Scotland to Glen Abbey, which was hosting for the first time since 2009.

Whilst warming up on the range on Saturday, 36-hole leader Hunter Mahan was informed his wife, Kandi was going into labor with their first child -- and Mahan promptly withdrew from the event and traveled home to Texas to be on hand for the birth.

Now, Mahan is a tremendous player who is widely respected for his ball-striking prowess. Indeed, he has developed a very rounded game and I am sure that further success in big tournaments is only a matter of time. In other words, there are many things we can learn from the physicality of Hunter’s game. I would like, however, to make a few observations of his actions and illustrate the lessons that lie embedded in them:

Hunter’s actions clearly indicate that he has golf in proper perspective. It fits in well behind life, his family and the other things that are dear to him personally. As a result, I believe that he is able to play with less concern for failure. In my opinion, it's a great place to be if you want to consistently produce good performances. I say it time and again to students of all skill levels: Tension is the siggest swing-wrecker I have ever encountered.

Tension is a product of doubt, apprehension and fear. So to free up your swing and your game, resolve to fit golf into the proper place in your life. For me it gets in behind faith, family and work. Consider a lesson I learnt from a client of mine and a great friend, Larry Mize: “Golf is what I do, it is not who I am. Winning the Masters is what I did, it does not define who I am.”

I am a firm believer that even though golf is a target and results-oriented game, an unwavering focus on the process required to hitting good shots and playing well is hugely important. It is more important to focus on your game in the present and the shot at hand than anything else. Hunter Mahan’s play through the first two rounds in Canada are perfect illustrations of his focus on the process required to play good golf instead of the results, be they past or future.

Consider this: He had played two major championships in a row with a legitimate chance of winning. Sadly for him, he has not converted yet, but it appears to me that this has not fazed him in the slightest. He arrived in Canada and had his mind on the job at hand. He then gets the phone call while on the range and without wavering he decides to withdraw. That shows me that he has no concern whatsoever about the future and he appears confident enough that if he continues to stay true to his work and his path he will find himself in a similar position in the future.

I leave you with a tweet he posted shortly after the birth of his baby daughter: “Both mom and baby are doing great. Thanks to all of my sponsors who appreciate what’s important in life and all my fans for being Awesome.”

So, focus on the job at hand, not what has happened in the past or what could happen in the future. And then like Hunter Mahan, keep golf in perspective – it is only a game, and it should be treated as such. Enjoy the journey en route to your destination.

Good luck.
/mi

Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.

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