The Tour Report

January 28 2013

11:15 AM

Mental game: You can learn from Tiger

By Dr. Gregg Steinberg, for PGATOUR.COM

After the second round of the 2013 Farmers Insurance Open, Tiger Woods told Golf Channel that the greens were not very good. There had a been a steady rain fall all day at Torrey Pines, and the Poa annua greens became slow and a bit too bumpy.

Yet, by all accounts he still putted fairly well. Tiger proceeded to shoot a 65 on the North Course. By his standards, however, he saw too many putts miss the mark or left short.

Why would Tiger blame the greens?

Actually, Tiger is using a clever psychological strategy to keep his putting confidence at a premium. Based on Attribution Theory, when we blame bad events (like poor putting) on factors that will change quickly, our confidence will stay the same. Tiger knows the next round should not be so wet and the greens should be more "puttable," and therefore, he should sink more putts.

On the other hand, Attribution Theory states that factors such as our ability are less likely to change from one situation to the next. Thus, if Tiger blamed his missed putts on his ability, then he would be more likely to lose confidence in his stroke for the next round.

To play your best golf, you must protect your confidence at all costs. But let’s face it -- once we miss a few putts in a row, it is very easy for doubt to creep into our minds. Block this doubt with this “Tiger strategy."  Next time you find yourself missing a few putts, try using a statement such as, “This green did not break the way it looked” or “The grain took that ball off line.” Given those factors can change quickly from hole to hole, your confidence should not diminish.

Of course, I must qualify my recommendation. If you know what is wrong with your putting during the round, don’t use denial. Fix the problem. But, there are many times when there are no clear answers as to why putts were missed. You made a good stroke yet the ball did not find the bottom of the cup. When this happens, use this mental tool to keep your confidence.

While we are continually told to take responsibility for our actions, this may not always be the best mental strategy. When the time is right, let denial keep your confidence rolling.

Bio: Dr. Gregg Steinberg is 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 worked with many PGA TOUR players. You can see more about him at www.drgreggsteinberg.com, and you can e-mail him at mentalrules24@msn.com