Mind games

DP World Tour caddy Chris Simmons on how the best players in the world stay focused on the task in front of them

There’s no such thing as a good caddie mould in my experience. What we do is all about our relationships with our players and every one of those partnerships is different. The best caddies know what to say and when to say it, and when to say nothing at all. Some players need a little reset after a poor shot, some need a little confidence booster, and others could be tempted to take a swing at you if you say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Knowing your player and what makes them tick is the key.

Two good examples from my own career have come while we’ve been in contention on Sundays.

When Brandon Stone got his first tour win at the BMW SA Open in 2016, he had a rollercoaster final round. He led comfortably after a few holes and then hit a spell of bogeys which saw him trailing by two with seven holes to play. On the 12th tee, I said to him: ‘let’s settle this down and start hitting fairways and greens’. That little reset and getting him back to focusing on the moment was enough. He hit it close and made birdie on 12, did the same on 13, and ended up winning the tournament by two.

When I was working for Julian Suri, he held the lead on the 72nd hole of the French Open at Le Golf National. He hit his approach into the water then pulled his fourth shot into the bunker and knew he had blown his chance to win. I let him walk ahead and get the frustration out of his system as that was best for him. As I caught up to him, I said: ‘You’ve had your sulk. Once we step off this bridge, let’s get up and down’. He did, finished in second place and took home more than €450,000.

It has become a cliché over the years and so many people say it without fully understanding how to do it, but playing one shot at a time is so important for every level of golfer.

The best players in the world understand that they can get annoyed about missing a green with a wedge, but they also know the next shot counts exactly the same as the previous one. They understand how important it is to not multiply their mistakes by allowing a bad shot to become a bad hole.

This is also important when things are going well. How often do low-handicappers make a run of a few birdies and then take a step backwards? The best players in the world are so focused on each shot that they don’t take their foot off the gas. They hit every shot in isolation and simply add them up at the end.

Amateur golfers could learn a lot from this approach. Tour players don’t focus on where they are in relation to par during their rounds, they only think about the shot in front of them. Apply that mindset to your own game and you’ll soon relax and begin focusing more on the process of hitting good shots than the outcome of the round.