By Robert Winters
You saw it, I saw it, everyone in golf saw it: Tiger Woods putted a ball off of the green and into Rae’s Creek on the 13th hole during the 69th Masters Tournament.
Unbelievable, most definitely.
Adding to his misfortune, Woods later snapped a drive into the trees not much more than 100 yards from the tee.
He also hit a beautiful iron shot that struck the pin and bounced backward into a downhill lie in a bunker. He salvaged a bogey when a mere inch either way could have resulted in a tap-in birdie.
After the first round, he was seven strokes behind.
In the midst of bad breaks, poor execution and squandered opportunities, something more important was going on in the mind of the eventual four-time Masters champion. He was playing to win, and he was smart enough to know that he absolutely had to stay patient and grind through the bad stuff.
He accepted what had happened and continued to wait for the good stuff to arrive – and it finally did. His 66 in the second round was eight strokes lower than his opening 74.
Here’s what you can learn from Woods’ extraordinary victory:
You will miss shots and sometimes they will be ugly, but you have to accept the misses and move on. Accept them not as “personal failures” but merely as bumps in a challenging road. By embracing the reality that you will make mistakes along the way, you can humanize your performance and help strengthen your resolve.
How do you regain your composure? How do you put the wheels back on when they start to fall off?
Here are two strategies:
Take a mental time-out. Immediately after an errant shot, instead of labeling your shot as terrible, take a couple of deep breaths and then swing the club vigorously two times.
This will allow you to create a physical and emotional release of energy. If left unchecked, this energy may be turned into negativity on later shots.
After your second “swing-away,” make one more swing. Try to produce the correct movement for upcoming shots. This is your “model” swing, and you are trying to insert this feeling into your brain.
Start fresh on a particular shot or on the 10th tee. To do this, you must let go of your running score.
Take off your hat or glove, and say to yourself, “I’m really going to immerse myself in this next shot.”
Use this positive self-talk to remind yourself that you can bounce back: You have done it before, and you will do it again this time. By putting your glove or hat back on, you are creating a cognitive-behavioral strategy that suggests “game on.”
To sum it up, there is a wonderful mantra for any golfer: “One after one, until I am done.”
Learning not to give up during a golf round is a continuous process. Every shot is a special moment, a chance to execute as effectively as you can. Each day you will be tested on your thinking, your shotmaking ability and your emotional resolve. Each shot requires 100 percent effort. Each situation requires 100 percent perseverance.
Don’t be satisfied with 80 percent or 90 percent. It isn’t enough. Think 100 percent.
Your personal mental force is the same dynamic that Woods exerted during critical moments at the Masters. All golfers are capable of this.
What is the greatest golf gift you can give yourself? As exemplified by this year’s Masters, it is a committed decision to play through adversity. You will be a better, happier golfer because you made the effort.
Dr. Robert Winters is a sports psychologist who works with golfers of all skill levels. He is the resident sports psychologist at the David Leadbetter World Teaching Headquarters at ChampionsGate (Fla.) Golf Resort. His latest book is “The Ten Commandments of Mindpower Golf.”