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August 12 2013

10:44 AM

Mental Game: Dufner's confidence

The decision to become more confident helped Jason Dufner win a major title. (Lecka/Getty Images)

By Dr. Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM

When Jason Dufner, the 2013 PGA Championship winner, was asked what contributed to his great play during the final round, he poignantly responded, "I decided I was going to be confident and put my best foot forward and play aggressive and try to win this thing." Dufner also added that he was not going to play scared. Clearly, his attitude produced magnificent play on Sunday as Dufner fired at all pins and swung away with his driver like it was a simple muni course rather than the supremely difficult Oak Hills Country Club.

Dufner gets it. Confidence is a choice. This is one of the most powerful mental game ingredients I can share with you. No matter how many bad shots you just hit or how many easy putts you just missed, you can still choose to be confident.  Regardless of outcome, you can always be confident, but that mental skill is supremely difficult.

Another story that illustrates the importance of this mental skill relates to the great Tom Watson. Most golf fans will remember his remarkable chip-in on the 17th hole at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where he went on to victory. However, on the seventh hole, he missed a putt from 2 feet. Watson didn’t lose confidence in his putting, he merely told himself that even great putters miss an occasional easy one.

It is so easy for your confidence to be fickle. Good shots on the golf course create a sweet air of invincibility while a couple of bad ones can make us sour instantly on our ability.

Winners like Dufner and Watson choose to be confident regardless of the situation or past disasters. Here are a few suggestions for you to remain confident in every situation:

1. Have a planned statement. A good statement that I use during tournaments is: “I choose to be confident.” This always helps me when my game goes south. Figure out a planned statement that will spur your confidence when times turn sour.

2. Have a golden image handy. A golden image is a shot that you just nailed. Perhaps it was that 5-iron you hit to 2 inches last week. Pull out this image every time you are losing some confidence in your game.

In his book "Man's Search for Meaning," the famous philosopher and self-help guru Victor Frankl wrote: “The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” You always have the choice of possessing a good or bad attitude and the freedom to change your attitude in an instant. If you make the correct choice to remain confident regardless, then your chances greatly increase of playing your best golf more often and of becoming the player you always wanted to be.

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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