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March 26 2013

9:27 AM

Mental game: Build confidence like Tiger

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By Dr. Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM

You would think a superstar like Tiger Woods does not need to work on his confidence. However, keeping your confidence from day to day is as difficult for the best player in the world as it is for any level of amateur.

Tiger Woods, winner of the 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard for a record eighth time, said he has gained confidence from the understanding of how to fix his game. It has taken him awhile, but according to Tiger, he now “owns his swing” and knows how to right the ship when his game is sinking.

That is quite a change. Anyone who has been following Tiger’s play in the past few years, has seen that in many occasions, he could not rectify some of his tendencies, like his blocks to the right. Once they appeared in his game, his persona changed and so did his ability to win.

Tiger is no different from the rest of us (OK, he is a lot different), but he too goes through some ups and downs in a round. We are only human and that means it is virtually impossible to be machine-like throughout a round. Even when you are playing your best, regardless of skill level---from a PGA TOUR player to a 10 handicapper—you will have a few bad holes during a round of golf.

There are many ways to keep our confidence, from visualization to positive self-talk, but one of the best ways is to understand the principles of faults and fixes in your game. For instance, if you have a tendency to get the smother hooks (or terror of the field mice as Ben Hogan would say), you will be completely confident if you know how to fix the problem.

Being able to fix the “wrongs” in your game and make them “right” is essential to keeping your confidence. Here are a few mental game suggestions to this process:

1) Become your own swing coach. While I do recommend you take lessons from a teaching professional, I also strongly encourage you to understand why your teacher is giving you that feedback. For instance, if you have a tendency to come over the top, ASK your teacher how you can fix this tendency. Remember your teacher is not with you on the course so you need to become your own best swing coach.

2) Become your own mental coach. While I do recommend you go see a sports psychologist to build mental toughness, you also need to know how fix your mental problems on the course. For instance, if you have a tendency to lose concentration during a round, you will need to know how to get focused quickly with certain go-to strategies.

Learn how to right your own ship, and your confidence will sail upward.

Dr. Gregg Steinberg is the author of the best selling golf psychology book, MentalRules for Golf. He is a regular guest every Tuesday on “Talk of the Tour” heard on the Sirius/XM PGA TOUR radio. Dr. Gregg is a tenured professor of sports psychology and has been the mental game coach for many PGA TOUR players.  You can see more about him at www.drgreggsteinberg.com, and you can e-mail him at mentalrules24@msn.com for any comments or questions about your mental game. 

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