Arnie Changes Plans
Arnold Palmer relates in his book, aptly titled “Go for broke,” that at some point in the middle 60s he changed his overall game plan. He started trying to play golf in the style of Ben Hogan; conservative golf, precision golf, calculated golf. It just wasn't right for him. It wasn't the style of golf that had already won him seven major championships. After a lean year in 1965, Palmer privately reappraised his decision. “Ultimately, I began to wonder if I could win, if I was afraid to win.”
At the start of the 1966 season Palmer felt certain he had to win in order to prove himself again. After three rounds of the Los Angeles Open he had built a seven shot lead. In the final round he unconsciously reverted to the “don't lose” mode of play. He went out worrying about his lead -- concerned with how he could protect it rather than how he could increase it. With four holes left to play, the seven shot lead had all but evaporated. Now he led by only one stroke. Finally, on the 15th tee, he shook himself mentally and went back to playing the kind of golf only Arnie could play. It was time to charge! Hitching up his pants he ripped it down the fairway and went on to win the tournament. He would win five other tournaments that same year.
Over the years Palmer resorted to all kinds of little tricks to help him play positively, shun negative thoughts and avoid falling prey to, “Man's natural fear.” One such trick was to look only at the leaders' scores when observing a scoreboard and ignore the names associated with those scores. In this way he avoided thinking about how they might play the remaining holes. Instead of second-guessing the competition, he just kept trying to make birdies and shoot the lowest possible score.