Every golfer has been in the same place as PGA professional Adam Scott. During this year’s British Open, Scott had a four-shot lead on the back nine, only to let victory slip away. It was a battle to win the mental game, and it made for a sad but exciting finish. Scott’s collapse allowed the consistent Ernie Els to win the prestigious event. (Check out Lessons Learned from Adam Scott’s 2012 British Open Final Round)
To play better golf (or any sport), here are two major sport psychology tips that can help.
Never Coast or Relax When You Have the Lead
When we teach golfers or other athletes to play “in the zone,” we’re training their unconscious minds to focus and to be goal-oriented. When a golfer with a lead relaxes, he loses focus and his performance inevitably suffers. Once that happens, most athlete revert back to trying to avoid mistakes, playing not too lose instead of to win. This is what ultimately caused Scott to bogey the last four holes at the Open.
Play in the Moment, One Shot at a Time
If you watched Els play his last few holes, he saved a par with a three-foot putt, lipped out on the 16th, hooked his approach into thick rough at the 17th and failed to hole out from 25 feet. On the final hole, he landed in a deep bunker off the tee and could only move his ball a few yards forward. What gave Els the victory was that he played one shot at a time. He moved the ball forward with a consistent mindset.
The key to winning this part of the mental game is managing mistakes. We train golfers to forget what just happened and to play forward.