Make The Most Of Your Talent


This tip comes from Karl Morris, who has worked with major winners including McDowell and Oosthuizen

Natural athleticism, hand-eye co-ordination, an eye for a ball or just plain, simple talent. It doesn't matter what we call it, the fact is the gods did not see fit to dispense it equally. You'll know a golfer at your club for whom the game seems infuriatingly easy; similarly, there are players who seem destined to struggle.

We all have a pretty fair idea of how much natural ability we have. If I asked you to give yours a number out of 10 with 10 being the most, no doubt you could supply the answer. It is all too easy to see your progress and potential limited by your response to this question. But this need not be the case.

Take 1990 US Open Champion Tom Kite. Never a natural athlete, Kit's stellar career was often painted in a context of overachievement.

"I think that's an idiotic comment," he once bristled. "Who's to say what's overachieving? That's somebody else deciding how much talent somebody has. They can't see inside my heart or inside my gut. All they see is the physical stuff, and that's a small part of golf, as you know."

Kite did what all great players of supposedly limited ability do – he developed an all-round approach. Rather than view the game solely as the pursuit of a purely-struck 1-iron, he set to work on the myriad qualities that make up a truly accomplished golfer – tenacity, dedication, self-belief, the creation of a mental state that would allow him to make his best effort on every shot.

"I did a lot of things really well," he added. "I wasn't bad at anything. When you totalled it all up, it was a pretty good package."

Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington is another great example of how not the most talented of players can achieve greatness. By his own admission the Irishman grew up a poor ball striker. To compete, he had to develop in other areas – determination, competitiveness, a superb short game and a strong work ethic.

Of course, natural ability is a wonderful attribute to have; but as Kite and Harrington have proved, it is quite possible to compete with golfers who have more of it than you. If you feel at a disadvantage in the talent scale, make a commitment to yourself that you'll never use this as an excuse to fail. Indeed, there is much evidence to suggest excessive talent can cause its own problems for the sportsmen and women blessed with it.

Typically the talented player struggles with resilience because they experience poor play less, and do not expect it. After a poor start, it's easier for the talented player to decide it's not going to be their day and throw in the towel. Talented golfers also struggle with perfectionism and are more prone to issues with temperament when a poor shot pops up; after all, they know they are better than this.

Make no mistake, the talented player should look to develop mental skills just as earnestly as anyone else. However much ability you have, the unrelenting aspect of golf means at some point you'll need them.

Talent is also threatened. Take Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk. His widely-ridiculed swing has brought him a 58 and a 59 on the PGA Tour, a US Open victory and career earnings north of $67m. But how easy would it have been for his coach and father Mike to have tutored all that talent out of his unorthodox son at an early age? In my book, leaving Jim alone was a truly courageous act and an exceptional achievement.

If you are talented but unorthodox, have the courage to stick with your action. But rather than relying solely on your God-given gifts, aim to improve the mental side of your game, too. Do this and there is no chance of you destroying your game, as there is with meddling with your swing; and you increase your chance of adding mental toughness – the ultimate combination for the ultimate golfer.