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Routine Rules
Karen Stupples

Karen Stupples became only the third British major champion in women's golf when she thrilled the galleries at Sunningdale at the Weetabix Women's British Open with one of the lowest closing rounds in major championship history.

A final round eight-under-par 64 was set up thanks to a dream eagle-albatross start at the two opening par-fives and from there on she stuck to her game plan, did not change anything in her usual routine, and breezed home by five shots to win the £160,000 first prize and a place in history.

Here, Karen explains a few secrets which helped her to snare her first 'big one'.

Women's British Open, I was determined to do well in front of my home crowd, but with the added pressure of having home sup¬port and playing well leading up to the event, I needed to concentrate more than ever on each shot and shut out the galleries, get completely 'into the zone' and work hard at sticking to my game plan around Sunningdale. It is a course that demands the utmost concentration - lose it and it will bite you.

One of the biggest weapons I had in my bag was my pre-shot routine. I focused hard on every shot and it worked well for me, especially in the final round. Having a pre-shot routine is a fabulous pressure release and it takes so much pressure off on each shot when you are under the gun, especially in big events when you are in contention.

During those opening holes, I put myself under a lot pressure to get off to a decent start and give Rachel Teske and Heather Bowie in the group behind something to think about. I stuck to my routine and it obviously worked. Having a little bit of luck was just the icing on the cake. I was one behind Rachel and Heather heading into that final round and I knew I needed to get off to a solid start. I wasn't trying to do anything dramatic, just stick to my game plan all the way around and not try to force the issue too much. What happened in those first two holes, making eagle-albatross, still leaves me with goose bumps - it really was unbelievable.

However, every shot I hit all day long was deliberate and methodically planned. If you see the footage of me at any time in that round, especially during those last few holes when I made the three birdies, every shot had a pre-shot routine. It took the heat off me when the pressure was building down the stretch.

One of the major benefits with a pre-shot routine is it takes my mind off hitting the actual shot. All I am thinking about is the process of hitting the ball as opposed to where the shot is going to end up. Let me show you how I do it.

Stay in the 'here and now" to withstand pressure and play well

One of the common mistakes made by club golfers is that they get so preoccupied with what the outcome of a shot might be they do not focus enough on the actual doing. To give you a guide, my pre-shot routine starts as soon as the bag goes down on the ground, for whatever shot I am playing. If I am hitting a normal iron shot - be it a drive or a tee-shot at a par-three such as this - my caddie, Bobby, and I work out the yardage, the wind direction and speed and then we assess the lie to see if it's downhill, uphill or sidehill. That is key in me (and you) deter¬mining the most suitable club to hit.

Once we have assessed all of that and have a club in mind and what type of shot I am going to play, I will then pull the club out of the bag and rehearse the shot until I am completely confident of making an exact replica of my practice swing when I go to hit the ball for real. I stand behind the ball on the same line as I would be hitting and then rehearse the shot I want to hit until I feel completely comfortable. What I am trying to do is feel exactly what I want to feel when I hit the shot.

In my practice swing, I actually visualise the shot. I imagine the ball coming out of the middle of the clubface and where it is going to go. I see in my mind's eye the impact, the flight of the ball, the top of its flight and track it all the way to the target. When I go to hit the shot, I try to correlate what I feel with what I can see.

Just before the execution of the shot, I line up the club behind the ball and get my aim right. I then move into the ball and square the clubface to the target line and then put my feet in parallel to that and go through exactly the same motions as my practice swing. It's a pressure release and you will rarely see me back off a shot.

Once I have everything in place, I 'fire'. All I think about is making a good swing - just like the one I imagined - and my thoughts are so positive there is no room in my head to worry about where the ball might go. If I have my previous calculations correct, I know exactly where it is likely to go.

Using a pre-shot routine is every bit as valuable around the green, too. When chipping, or on short pitch shots, I really have to imagine the shot in my mind before I play it. These are shots that you do not want to take any chances with. You need to fully imagine playing the shot, then walk into the ball and replicate it in real time.

Those shots are 'feel' shots and the practice swing is so important. You need to know exactly what you want to do with the ball. Golf is a 'feel' game, not a science.

It is the same with putting. Again, I go through the entire routine of picking my line, imagining the speed, the breaks and which points the ball will run over. Then, I just make my practice strokes and watch the imaginary ball running into the hole. All I have to do then is replicate those same feelings and thoughts when I hit the putt for real.

With putting, I mark a line on my ball. The first thing I do is replace my ball so that the mark is on the line I want the ball to start. Again, this takes off all the pressure of thinking about the ball going in the hole. If your calculations are correct with speed and line, all you need to concentrate on is making a good stroke. If I miss, then I have made an error with either the line or the speed - well, that's my theory, anyway.

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