This week’s armchair golf pro post is about mental toughness and how difficult it can be to let everything else go and just stay in the moment.
Hunter Mahan had an amazing finishing day, closing with a 64 to win the Bridgestone invitational by two strokes over Ryan Palmer. You have to give it up for Mahan and his ability to close. He’s won three tournaments with final round scores of 65, 65, and this week’s 64. That’s a stellar display of mental toughness, and I’ll talk more about how staying in the moment is a key aspect of being mentally tough and finishing strong.
But what really struck me was the Tiger Woods interview after his round. Tiger posted an 18-over par score – the worst performance of his professional career. They showed a 6-minute interview with Tiger right in the middle of the broadcast, and even though Mahan’s triumph was terrific, the lesson I took away from my armchair was how much your game can be influenced by things going on outside the golf course and just how hard it can be to let it go. You don’t always recognize how the pressures of your day-to-day life affect your play, and that’s a lesson for all of us.
During his interview I thought Tiger seemed bitter. And not necessarily because of his score. The bitterness seemed deeper. There are a lot of unhappy things going on in Tiger’s personal life, and I suspect that is what is affecting his game more than any swing issues. At one point in the interview he was asked about his poor performance this year. Initially he talked about making swing changes in the past and how it took two years to get his game back. But later in the interview he just said “It’s been a long year.” I think we know what he was referring to.
Here’s a guy who is one of the toughest mental competitors to ever play the game. If there’s anybody who should be able to let go of his personal baggage when he tees it up, it’s Tiger. So if it’s that hard for him, what does that say to the rest of us?
Somehow you have to find a way to create the space for your game when you are on the course and let the outside world take care of itself for awhile. Perhaps you need to remind yourself that you are playing a game, and games are supposed to be fun. When you pull into the parking lot, sit for 30 seconds and relax, slow down, and be in the present moment. I call this “getting on golf time.” When you play, take a moment to enjoy the scenery and your companions. Smile for an entire hole. Crack a joke. You probably know what works best for you.
What works best for me is to stay in the moment and focus on the task at hand. The more I concentrate on what is right in front of me the more other stuff fades into the background. Let me know if you have your own solutions. I’d love to hear them.