By Dr. Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM
Many experts would say that the use of his mother’s putter led to his recent victory. Others might state that it was a putting tip from Lamar University golf coach Brian White. My belief is that D.A. Points won the Shell Houston Open because of “cheesy grins.”
Points mentioned that he was flashing “cheesy grins” to his caddie, Travis Perkins, on the course and those expressions made them crack each other up. But more importantly, according to Points, those “cheesy grins” also kept him loose under the intense pressure of chasing his second PGA TOUR victory.
D.A. Points was feeling the pressure to keep his job. He had missed nearly 50 percent of the cuts (29/60) since his win at the 2011 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. This year had gotten worse with him missing seven in his last nine starts. The pressure was immense to play well down the stretch this week at the Redstone Golf Club in Humble, Texas.
The misunderstanding is that the elite players on the PGA TOUR do not get nervous. They do. They are just like you. Pressure is relative. We all feel nervous when the event is important to us. A victory would ensure that Points had a job for another year on the PGA TOUR.
One of the best ways to buffer the pressure is to have a mental game mechanism that keeps you loose when the muscles can get tight. This mechanism can come in many forms. It could be a fun self-statement like “easy-speezy”, and you say it every time you feel those butterflies forming. This mental mechanism could be an image of you sitting at your favorite beach drinking your favorite beverage. It can also be an action like making a “cheesy grin”.
Don’t hide your head in the sand when it comes to pressure on the course. The first step in beating the nerves out of your game is to realize that you will feel the heat. That is natural, from the best in the world to the worst.
Once you accept that anxiety will show up, then be prepared with a mental mechanism to keep you loose. You may want to try a grin, or a wry smile, or a beefy chuckle. Make the cheese optional.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for any comments or questions about your mental game.