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The Tour Report

April 29 2013

9:41 AM

Mental Game: Slow it down

Billy Horschel geared it back at times en route to his first PGA TOUR win. (Graythen/Getty Images)

By Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM

On the 15th hole at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Billy Horschel was at a crossroads to victory.Both Sir Nick Faldo and Peter Kostis, the TV commentators, noticed an increase in speed in Horschel’s game.

He is already a fast player, but Horschel’s swing and thinking were getting faster and faster under the pressure of being the leader. On No. 15, he hit his drive to the right and finished on the upslope of a bunker. He proceeded to hit his next shot extraordinarily quick, and it ended to the right of the green. He chipped up and missed his putt for bogey, his first of the weekend.

Luckily for Horschel, he gained his composure with a birdie on the next hole and slowed down to his first victory on the PGA TOUR.

Billy Horschel was doing what most golfers do when anxious: speed up. This stems from our ancestors and the fight or flight response. Thousands of years ago, the fear of losing your life would release hormones in your body such as epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones act as stimulants and can make us run faster and jump higher, providing us with a swift getaway from predators.

In today’s world, we are not afraid of dying, but rather we have the fear of failing. This fear comes out when we want to play well under pressure, or in Horschel’s case, win his first golf PGA TOUR event.

When the pressure hits your game, you most likely will get quicker, both in your thinking and in your swing. Here is one great suggestion to remedy this problem that I got from the great Gary Player: go slow.

When Player felt the pressure, he would do everything just a tad slower. He would walk to his ball a little bit slower, and even take his practice swings a bit slower. Gary intuitively knew this would counterbalance the increase in speed from anxiety.

Next time you feel the butterflies entering the scene, slow it down one notch. This strategy is bound to increase your good play under pressure.

Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a regular guest every Tuesday on “Talk of the Tour” heard on the Sirius/XM PGA TOUR radio. He is a tenured professor of sports psychology and has been the mental game coach for many PGA TOUR players. Dr. Gregg is the author of the best selling golf psychology book, MentalRules for Golf, and you can get your autographed copy at www.drgreggsteinberg.com.