For most players at this week's U.S. Open at Congressional, hitting that first tee shot is extremely nerve-wracking. Not only is it the national championship of the United States of America, it's also a terribly difficult tee shot. If you're teeing off on No. 1, you'll need a long and straight drive to have a chance of hitting your second shot on the green. And you're one of the lucky ones. If you're one of the unfortunate souls who have to tee off on No. 10, a 215-yard par 3 over water with a steeply sloping, closely mown front bank, it's a whole other story. This morning, in the first four groups, three players found the water leading to double-bogeys. And these are the best players in the world! Not exactly the way you want to start the tournament.
Average golfers face the same hand-wringing, knee-buckling anxiety--on a slightly lower level of course--when they hit their first tee shots in the tournaments they play. What's the best way to handle the pressure? Let's see what Golf Digest Professional Advisor and sport psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella has to say:
"Anyone suffering from first-tee jitters should develop a pre-shot routine and stick with it," notes Dr. Bob. "Look at Tom Watson today and 25 years ago. Same routine. Two waggles and go, whether it's a major or a pro-am. A good preshot routine is like being in a quiet room, where pressure can't get you. Make it simple: Pick your target, see the shot and swing. Do your routine on the range before hitting your last 10 practice balls. Then take that same routine to the tee. Then the first tee won't own you -- you'll own the tee."
Sounds like good advice to me. Good luck with your game, and remember you can follow me on Twitter @RogerSchiffman.