Spieth was still a few days short of his twenty fourth birthday, already had two majors under his belt, had spent twenty six weeks as the world’s No.1 and was well known for his ability to lead from the front and close out tournaments. Things certainly didn’t start out as anyone might have expected. After the first four holes of the final round, Spieth had dropped three shots and was now back at -8, tied for the lead with Kuchar.
After twelve holes the situation was still the same, both tied for the lead of the oldest and most coveted of the four major championships. All those who follow golf know what happened next. Spieth’s drive at the 13th went an incredible and almost unbelievable120 yards right, burying itself at the base of one of Royal Birkdale’s largest dunes. This, my friends, is the shot that won the Open.
This is probably going to require a bit of explaining! My theory is based on the latest research into the peak performing zone or flow. Flow is the term first coined by Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book ‘Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience’ written in 1990. Flow is an extremely potent response to external events and requires an extraordinary set of signals. It is an altered state of awareness in which performance is powerfully enhanced.
There are many examples of the flow state in professional golf but my favourite is when Billy Mayfair shot 27 on the back nine in the final round of the Buick Open in 2001. He was quoted as saying that the holes looked the size of bathtubs, it felt like another part of him had taken over and all he had to do was to keep out of his way!
As a golfer myself with a handicap of 7, I vividly remember my own experience of flow when I shot my first sub seventy round in a weekly club competition. It lasted the whole round and I couldn’t stop smiling!
The flow state or zone is seen as something that just happens; that it can’t be planned. People just find themselves in it. But this is all changing... fast!
Since 1990 there has been a significant amount of research done on the flow state covering many aspects of peak performance in various sports, activities and industry/commerce, however for this article I just want to touch on the stages of flow and some triggers to flow.
Firstly, the flow state consists of four stages.
Secondly, the triggers to flow primarily consist of external and internal triggers.
External triggers include:-
So my belief is that Spieth’s drive at the 13th was the culmination of his struggle phase. Most players would have ended up with at least a double and their struggle would have continued. Kuchar would have been two ahead and he would have ended up holding the claret jug aloft on the eighteenth green! Spieth though, found a way to make a shift either consciously or unconsciously, paving the way to accessing his flow state. And as we all know, what a flow state it was! He took a one shot penalty and dropped on the practice range, three iron short right, chip to eight feet and holed the putt for a bogey.
The next four holes will go down in Open history. 14th par three, 6 iron from 195yds to 4ft, birdie. 15th par five, driver, three wood from 256yds to 55ft and one putt, eagle. 16th par four, driver, eight iron from 153yds to 25ft, one putt, birdie. 17th par five, driver, laid up with eight iron, chip to 8ft and one putt, birdie.
That, my friends, is one of the finest examples of the peak performing state in golf you are ever likely to see. All triggered by the worst drive that Jordan Spieth has probably ever hit in his professional career.
Major institutions are currently conducting significant research into the flow state focusing on both sport and business. We are beginning to understand that flow is a product of radical neurochemical, neuroelectrical and neuroanatomical function. It is being demonstrated that this peak performance state does not have to be something that is accessed purely by chance but that now it can be trained for. And that is an exciting prospect for anyone who wants to maximise his or her potential.
Flow Peak Performance Academy runs individual and group peak performance flow programs for sports and business organisations! To find out more how accessing your peak performing flow state will help you, please contact Nick Lees at firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0)7411 944284.