A team leader can give his players the confidence they need—without being overbearing

I had a useful experience at last year’s Seve Trophy, which pits players from Continental Europe against some from the U.K. and Ireland, because it gave me the chance to be an active captain during competition.

Among other things, I learned what productive captaining is. Here’s an example: As I watched a few groups play a middle-iron par three with a mound on one side, I could see the safe play wasn’t working. The players were shooting away from the flag, but none were two-putting. That ridge in the green was having a bigger effect than you would expect. So I said to my guys, “Look, you might as well go right for the pin. There’s no percentage in playing toward the bailout. You won’t two-putt from there.” With the captain telling them it’s the right play, guys were able to make good swings and hit some shots close. I was offering information on the current conditions, something they would normally never get.

It’s interesting that the tournament where you get to practice all this is the Seve Trophy, because I think that when Ballesteros was Ryder Cup captain in 1997, he tended to overdo it in regard to giving advice during matches. He got in the player’s space, and you can’t do that.