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August 6 2013

9:40 AM

Mental Game: Finding the zone

Charting how you feel when in a zone can lead to improved play. (Greenwood/Getty Images)

By Dr. Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM

Unbelievable. Incredible. Amazing. Words pale in description of Tiger Woods’ second-round performance at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. Anyone who was lucky enough to see that round in person or on television witnessed some of the best golf ever played in competition. Woods was hitting prodigious drives, lazer-like irons and making putts from everywhere. Through 14 holes, Woods was 9 under with 59 as a possibility. Unfortunately, he could not muster another birdie coming down the home stretch and finished with a brilliant 61 on a very difficult course at Firestone Country Club.

During Friday’s round, Woods was in the zone. The zone, also known as flow, is that magical time on the course when we have complete confidence in our game, the hole gets in the way of every putt, and we can do no wrong. It is a time when this very difficult game seems so easy.

More importantly, the zone state is unique. More specifically, your feelings when in the zone state are unique. Sam Snead described the zone as a feeling of being “cool mad.” When I am playing my best golf, I would describe it as a peaceful feeling. I have heard other golfers describe the zone as being "totally pumped up."

Given that the zone state is unique for each golfer, you will need to create your own road map to find your zone more often. Here is my mental game recommendation for playing your very best golf more often:

1. Develop a zone log. Recall a time, or if lucky enough, a few times, in which you were in the zone on the course. Write down the day, the name of the course and what you shot. Most importantly, describe your feelings during the zone. Were you "cool mad" like Snead or peaceful? Were you pumped up? Were you nervous?

2. Discover emotional patterns. Were there any distinct patterns of emotions when you have played your best golf?

3. When you discover patterns, push your emotions in that direction when you play golf. If you play your best golf when calm, then figure out ways to stay relaxed. In contrast, if you play your best golf when pumped up, then find ways to build your intensity levels on the course.

Aristotle once stated, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Repeat your best emotions time and time again to find your best golf, time and time again.

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 as well as top collegiate and junior golfer. Dr. Gregg is the author of the best selling golf psychology book, MentalRules for Golf, and you can get your autographed copy at drgreggsteinberg.com.

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