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February 3 2013

5:15 PM

The Mental Game: Mickelson's smile

By Dr. Gregg Steinberg, For PGATOUR.COM

When you watch Phil Mickelson, the 2013 Waste Management Phoenix Open champion, you can’t help but notice his voracious smile. While his delightful expression engages his army of fans, his smile also acts as a mental toughness weapon.

Take the first round on Thursday in which Phil had a birdie putt for a 59, a score he has never shot on the PGA TOUR.  Although he made a beautiful stroke and thought he made it, the ball gently lipped out.  At that moment, Jim “Bones”

Mackay (Phil’s caddie) fell to his knees in emotional agony, but Phil just stood there and smiled.

Phil’s smile acts as a pressure release. Whether he just hit a great shot or a terrible one, his smile helps him to remain cool, calm, and collected on the course, regardless of outcome.

Anyone who has ever played this great game understands how frustrating golf can be. It can tear you up inside, and make you so angry you might say or do something you never would do outside the ropes.

To keep your sanity as well as your emotional control, golfers need a pressure release. Think of yourself as a kettle on the stove.  If the heat gets too high, the lid could blow off.  However, the hole in the lid acts as a pressure release preventing any unwanted explosion.

Unfortunately, we have all seen a variety of lids being blown off on the course.  Some golfers throw their clubs or curse up a storm as a way to release their pent up pressure.  Not only is this extremely poor sportsmanship, those actions can cause a downward spiral emotionally.

Do you have a pressure release mechanism built into your game?

I recommend a positive action like smiling as Phil does or a simple chuckle following a bad shot or poor outcome -- as Brandt Snedeker does on many occasions.

Another action I recommend as a pressure release is a post-shot routine. As an example following a bad shot, take a practice swing with the ideal method you wanted to hit the shot. Then visualize the shot going where you had planned.  Then say to yourself “next shot’ for closure. Anyone who has seen Jim Furyk in action on the PGA TOUR has seen him do a similar post-shot routine

To prevent imploding under pressure, use some type of mental mechanism and you will see your scores explode downward.

Dr. Gregg Steinberg is regular guest every Tuesday on “Talk of the Tour” heard on the PGA TOUR Sirius/XM radio.  He is a tenured professor of sports psychology and has worked with many PGA TOUR players. You can see more about him at www.drgreggsteinberg.com, and you can e-mail him at mentalrules24@msn.com

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