Scott McCarron Clutch Interview
McCarron’s Clutch Drive on 72nd Hole Wins US Senior Players Championship
With a 1-shot lead coming into the last hole of the Players Championship Scott McCarron knew he had to hit a perfect drive to win his first Major. Listen as he shares the secrets behind what it took to be clutch, including why he backed off once before stepping in to swing and how his clutch drive affected his play – not only for that day, but for future clutch situations as well (like his win below at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open). You’ll find out why a precise pre-shot routine is so important and how he structures his practice sessions to prepare for pivotal moments. Every golfer will benefit from following Scott’s advice.
Here’s what to listen for (and apply to your game):
- Structuring Random but Purposeful practice sessions
- How his pe-shot routine unleashed his athletic mind.
- Why one clutch shot can lead to another.
- How a simple 3 cadence action phrase kept him centered.
- What “First Shot” practice is, and how it will help under pressure
- Why changing shot shapes, targets, and directions lead to long-term consistency
About Scott McCarron
Scott McCarron qualified for the PGA Tour in 1995 and won his first tournament at New Orleans in 1996. Over the course of a 20-year career on the PGA Tour he notched three victories and amassed more than $17.2 million dollars in earnings, including $4.6 million in 5 years on the Champions Tour where he collect another 6 (and counting) victories. The 2017 Senior Players Championship was his first Major. He finished a close second to Bernhard Langer in the 2017 Schwab Cup race, having arguably his best year ever as a professional golfer.
Scott also spent time as a broadcaster for both the Golf Channel and FOX. He likes flying, mountain biking, fly fishing, playing guitar, and he carries a SpongeBob SquarePants charm given to him by his daughters as a good luck charm.
Dr. Glen Albaugh has worked with Scott for more than 25 years to fine tune his mental game and to prepare him to be successful in clutch moments just like the one he describes in the interview.
Scott’s Pre-Shot Routine and practice sessions are described in detail in Dr. Albaugh’s book “Winning The Battle Within.” If you don’t already have a copy you can get one from the BOOKS section.
Scott McCarron Clutch Interview
Dr. Glen Albaugh: Today, Scott, we’re going to be talking about Clutch. Talking about clutch situations: those pivotal moments when the outcome hangs in the balance. We’re talking about what it takes to pull off clutch shots, hitting exactly what you need, precisely when you need it. We’re also talking about clutch players – you know the kind of golfer who consistently comes through in clutch time.
[00:00:26] So tell me a situation. Think back in time when you faced crucial moment in a round or a tournament. A Moment when everything hung in the balance and the outcome could have gone either way. Where a single shot might have made all the difference. In other words, a clutch situation. So describe that. What was at stake? Your strategy? And what shot did you have in mind to hit and how that shot affected the rest of the round or the tournament.
Scott McCarron: [00:00:54] Well Glenn thanks for having me on. You know we hit so many shots each day, each round, each tournament that you could say are clutch shots. Every one of them means just as much as the next. But having said that, as I’m looking back on some of my rounds last year and some of the tournaments I’ve played in I would have to say one of them that comes to mind would be the 18th tee shot at the Alliance Championship in Boca.
[00:01:20] It was a shot with a little left-to-right wind a par-5 that if I hit the fairway I could reach with a middle iron or long iron. With the wind out of the left, which isn’t my favorite wind, and the hole just doglegs a little bit right to left, which is also not my favorite shape. I like to move the ball left to right with a cut.
[00:01:39] I stepped up to the tee, getting ready to hit the shot, I was one shot back. I needed to eagle the last hole to win. To beat Kenny Perry.
[00:01:47] And as I stepped up to the tee I didn’t quite have the shot in mind. I didn’t quite feel exactly what I wanted to. I got over the ball I was a little rushed and I actually stopped. And I stepped back. So I took a big deep breath, saw the little draw that I wanted to hit, and felt the draw swing, and then got back into the shot with a clear mind and just let my body react to what I had just felt and saw. And was able to pull that shot off.
Dr. Glen Albaugh: [00:02:13] So what you are saying there is that it was really important for you to have a really clear mind. And you stepped back until into you had that clear mind before you stepped in to hit it.
Scott McCarron: [00:02:21] Absolutely. I think when you look back the most important thing of the shot – that particular shot – was the reset. Was to be able to have the wherewithal, to have the courage, at that moment, knowing that the cameras are on, that you’re in the last group, that you’re one shot back. What you need to do to be able to stop and step back and reset.
Dr. Glen Albaugh: [00:02:41] I guess one of the great features of golf is that you can step back and start over if you are not quite ready. Which you did.
Scott McCarron: [00:02:48] Absolutely. Yeah, you can. And luckily golf is that sport. Like tennis – if you’re serving you can stop. In basketball and free throw shooting you can stop. Now the active sports where you’re running you can’t really stop and reset. But in those different moments you can.
[00:03:02] And if you aren’t feeling what you want to accomplish and you’re not able to see and feel it, it’s okay to stop and reset. And I think at that point that was very key for me on that particular shot.
Dr. Glen Albaugh: [00:03:13] So that’s pretty darn clear. How would you characterize your emotional state when that shot came up?
Scott McCarron: [00:03:19] My emotional state was … obviously you are in little bit more heightened state because you are in the lead, on the last hole, the last few shots. So the heart rate is certainly going up a little bit. I’m aware of my heart rate, aware of the heartbeat. I’m focusing on deep breathing as I’m walking from the 17th green to the 18th tee, making sure I take nice big deep breaths to be as calm as possible in that situation.
[00:03:44] So I think one of the things is just being aware.
[00:03:46] A lot of times you just go right from the green to the tee and then hit a shot without really being aware of how your body feels, how your mind might be racing.
[00:03:54] For us it’s always good to slow things down. Take a little bit of time. Take a moment. Be in the present and be centered, so you are able to give yourself the best opportunity to pull off the shot you need to hit.
Dr. Glen Albaugh: [00:04:04] So specifically what did you focus on for that shot? What did you see visually? Did you feel the swing that matched what you saw? Be specific about that if you can.
Scott McCarron: [00:04:14] Yes. As I stood up over the tee the second time I saw that shot just going down the center of the fairway, pretty much going straight. Because of the left-to-right wind, even if I did turn it over a little bit, it wouldn’t move too much to the left. There were some trees out there to the right that obviously I didn’t want to be in, and there was a waste area on the left hand side.
[00:04:33] So I saw this shot. I really felt the swing. Meaning I really felt myself letting it go. I mean not holding on.
[00:04:41] When I hold on to a shot I’ll tend to hit it left to right, and I really wanted to just let the shot go. Hit a good drive.
[00:04:48] I actually absolutely smashed it. I probably hit it about 330 yards right down the middle. Fully let go. And the ball just went pretty much dead straight. But it was a shot that I really felt that was fully released.
[00:05:01] You know it’s funny the commentators on TV – Lanny Wadkins especially – you know he sees me hit a lot of cuts and he said it was going to be a very hard shot for me and difficult to hit. When I hit he said “Oh. That’s headed down the left hand side and cutting big.” Well, it wasn’t all. It was dead down the middle of Fairway and just absolutely smashed.
Dr. Glen Albaugh: [00:05:18] You smashed it. That’s pretty damn illustrative. It illustrates exactly what you were feeling. So did you, you probably would rate that – on a 1 to 10 scale – of really swinging automatically without tension there, it sounds like it was a 10.
Scott McCarron: [00:05:33] Yeah it was most definitely it was a ten. It was one of the freest swings that I probably had all day long. And to be in that situation, you know, and let it go, really made me feel good.
[00:05:43] A lot of my training is to clear my mind. I have a few things that I do while I’m swinging: just kind of abstract, not thinking about that swing or the mechanics of it, and to really just allow my mind to quiet down and let my body just take over and do what it knows how to do.
[00:06:02] I mean I’ve been swinging all my life since I was a little kid. I know how to swing a golf club. It’s just getting out of the way and allowing your body to go ahead and do that.
[00:06:09] So the training that I do all the time, and the training that we’ve done over the years, is based specifically for those type of moments. To just allow yourself to hit the shots already know how to hit.
Dr. Glen Albaugh: [00:06:20] What do you specifically do when you practice in order to prepare yourself for this absolutely clutch situation?
Scott McCarron: [00:06:28] Well I think the biggest thing for me when I’m practicing for a performance – when I’m getting ready for a tournament – is to really go through my routine. Whether it’s the full routine or a half routine, just like I would a golf course.
[00:06:39] My routine is very specific. How I walk into it. How many looks. What I’m saying to myself. How I’m taking a big deep breath. How I feel like I’m just almost not thinking about anything right when the club starts going back. So I practice that.
[00:06:54] I don’t hit balls on the range – twenty five five irons to the same target. I’m always moving targets. Moving shots. Hitting different shapes. Doing nine-ball challenge. Playing holes.
[00:07:05] And that, I feel, is what really gets me ready to perform.
[00:07:09] Now if I’m working on a specific mechanical move I will go ahead and hit 25 five five-irons to a target, just to see if I can get that move ingrained. And then I’ll move on to moving the ball around, then hitting certain shots. But to play for performance, when I’m getting ready for a tournament, I’m not thinking really much about mechanics at all. I’m just thinking about shots, and practicing for performance.
Dr. Glen Albaugh: [00:07:30] So you pulled the shot off, obviously. So what did you feel like after you pulled it off? What went through your mind? How did that affect you for the rest of that round or even that tournament or the next tournament?
Scott McCarron: [00:07:43] Well you know it certainly is a good feeling when you have a shot like that to pull it off.
[00:07:47] I mean I felt like I absolutely just crushed it, right down the middle, just the shot I saw, just what I had felt. And so that led me to the next shot.
[00:07:54] I’d hit it so far down the par-5 that I actually got a lot closer to the tree that’s in the middle of the fairway. But I had 192 yards to the hole. I had to get up a little bit higher over the tree and I was you know pumped up a little bit and I hit 7-iron. And normally my 7-iron goes about 170 to 175. But being kind of – with the adrenaline flowing – I usually hit it a little bit farther with the adrenaline flowing in. It was just a little left to right and the wind was switching to just possibly helping a bit.
[00:08:22] So after pulling off that drive, I felt very good with the next shot: the seven iron. And that one was an interesting shot because the sun was setting, so I was kind of blinded. I wasn’t really able to see where the flag was. But I was able to ‘see’ the shot I wanted to hit. I was able to see a spot in the tree that I wanted to go over.
[00:08:40] And then I stepped up with that feeling of just letting it go, just like I did on the tee shot, and hit a beautiful 7-iron.
[00:08:47] And as soon as I get it I knew it was good. I actually turned to my caddie Rich Mayo and said “Did you see it?” And we both looked in the sun and couldn’t see where the ball was going. But I knew it was going to be good. I didn’t know until the crowd reacted with a huge cheer that had been about six feet just below the hole.
Dr. Glen Albaugh: [00:09:01] I suspect you knew it right at impact.
Scott McCarron: [00:09:04] Yeah I did. It was just one of those that, you know, again it just felt good.
[00:09:07] And I think a lot of my training that you and I have done Glen, with eyes closed, with eyes closed that impact – you know when you’re feeling shots – had a big impact on that shot in particular because you’ve hit it and you just have to go with what it feels. You look up and you can’t see anything and it’s more of just how did that how did that feel?
[00:09:26] And it felt right on the button, right in the center of the club face, great impact, had great sound. In my swing I really let it go, without any thoughts.
Dr. Glen Albaugh: [00:09:35] I suspect that you saw it and felt it before you ever did it.
Scott McCarron: [00:09:40] Yeah like I explained, I did. And I think even more enhanced because I wasn’t able to see the target. So you know you had to be more focused in on seeing and feeling, because you weren’t able to really see the targets. It could have been that I even use my imagination more on that shot because you couldn’t see the actual target.
[00:09:57] I liken it a lot to one of my favorite shots in golf is the second shot on the six hole at Pebble Beach, the par 5 up the hill. Where you can’t see the green, and you can’t see it land, you can only see the trajectory taking off. And this shot was very similar in that I couldn’t see the green. Couldn’t see the flag. I could only see the trajectory taking off for the first 50 to 100 yards.
Dr. Glen Albaugh: [00:10:17] That’s a great description of a clutch moment and how you went about completing it. The situation was there. You were really specific about what you wanted to do. You stepped in and made sure your mind was clear. And you were really focused. You were able to see the shot before you ever swung. And you felt and saw this even before it happened.
[00:10:37] And it also affected the rest of your round.
[00:10:40] You took that with you. Having that kind of experience like that – when you are clutch at the clutch moment – is certainly a carry over. And it was a carry over for you.
[00:10:49] And I really liked that you train for this. This doesn’t happen to just drop out of the sky. For that situation came, and the way you practice, and all your performance practice, made sure that you were ready for this situation. Because you don’t know when they’re going to happen. But when it does happen then, as our friend Bill Walsh used to say “if you’re ever surprised when you are in a clutch situation, then you were not prepared.”
[00:11:11] So … you were not surprised. And you were prepared. That’s a great description of a clutch moment. Really, it was quite good. So I’m going to end this right now. You have one more comment to make. This has been terrific Scott.
Scott McCarron: [00:11:23] Thanks Glen. You know all the work that we’ve done over the years, the book Winning the Battle Within, these are things that I practice. These are things that I preach to my friends, people I play in ProAms with. A lot of the teachings that you and I discovered together on our long journey.
[00:11:39] It’s been a wonderful journey for me. It’s so awesome to be able to continue at 52 years old on the Champions Tour and to still have the same feelings that I had on the PGA Tour, trying to win tournaments and trying to be clutch. I just need on the Champions Tour to get more opportunities to try to be clutch.
[00:11:56] That has been so much fun for me, to be able to do that and share it with You Glen.
Dr. Glen Albaugh: [00:11:59] Well you’re quite generous. I believe that all of the inner game drills that we developed, that you do, we did it together. That was definitely a long journey. Thank you Scott. Thank you.
Scott McCarron: [00:12:11] Thank you Glen.