LET star Meghan MacLaren: “Avoiding overthinking is the key to success”

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Analysing your game can be productive. Over-analysing it can be a recipe for disaster. In her exclusive Today’s Golfer column, LET star Meghan MacLaren says playing with a free mind will lead to better results – and a better time.

One of the most difficult parts of being a professional golfer – from a mental perspective – is not getting sucked in to the context of different tournaments. A Major will always be a Major, but if we were able to elevate our games to a different level just for those weeks, why wouldn’t we do it every week?

There’s a hierarchy of tournaments in the golf world, no matter what tour or level you play at. Even 15, 20 or 36- handicap club golfers will have rounds, matches or competitions that feel more important than going out for fun with their friends. Learning to handle that is one of the most critical things any golfer can master if they want to be successful.

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Meg tasted victory in the Rose Ladies Series in 2020.

My ‘level’ currently is the LET. I love playing the LET. I’ve tried hard (so far in vain) to get my LPGA card, but not so much because I want to leave the LET behind – more because I want to see if I can become the best player in the world, and that’s only really possible when you are competing against the other best-ranked players in the world.

The LET is getting stronger and stronger – just keep your eye out for the players currently at the top of the Order of Merit in the next year or two – but the LPGA is the gateway to the very best. World ranking points, Majors (and money) are all on a different platform on the other side of the pond.

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Despite not competing on the LPGA, I think I’ve had a reasonably successful professional career so far. It obviously depends what your measures are, and I have higher standards for myself than probably anyone else realises. But that’s what drives me.

Australia's Minjee Lee added her second career Major with victory in this year's US Women's Open.

The thing I sometimes struggle with mentally, though, is taking those measures of success into the environment that I want to test myself in. Is winning a relatively small LET event in Australia a different ball game to the two Major championships I am consequently exempt for this season?

The reckless voice in my head tells me that yes, it is. Until you’ve done it at the highest level, it means nothing. That’s why so many careers are judged by Majors. We’re all aware that winning a professional tournament anywhere is a big deal. But Majors are the true separator.

However, when that voice in my head threatens to strangle my self-belief, I’m brought back to the point of this column. Golf is golf, no matter where you are, who is alongside you or what you are playing for. The nature of the sport is the same.

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The things I had to do to perform to the level I did in Australia are precisely the same things I have to do to perform to a high level elsewhere. And you know what else? I loved every second of winning that relatively small LET event in Australia. No part of it felt small at the time. The environment brought out the best in me, because I let it.

It’s far too easy to forget to enjoy what we do when we get caught up in trying too hard. Most of us enjoy being successful, but success is all relative too. If success in golf is winning, then most of us – at every level – are going to be pretty miserable!

Brooke Henderson's six-year wait for a second Major ended with victory at The Evian Championship in July.

The intertwining of physical skill and mental clarity are part of this game’s devilish beauty. For me personally, I struggle to combine the two perhaps because of the nature of my career so far. I’ve performed well, but I would like to perform well at the highest level. There are only certain opportunities to do that within an LET schedule.

And yet I started the year without any of those opportunities at all as I was planning to play on the Epson feeder tour in the USA, and only had Q School status in Europe. Not thinking about how to create those opportunities – and instead thinking about what was necessary for me to perform well – was exactly what created those opportunities. 

Maybe it would be easier to not think all of these things. Maybe we would all be far more successful if we just woke up every day and did what we need to do to play our best golf. There are some things that are repeatable, some things that consistently show up when we are at our best.

But we are all human, too, and golf is a sport that pulls out every human element we possess. Conquering ourselves – or maybe realising that we can never do so – is perhaps the greatest battle that golf will ever ask of us.

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