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The Tour Report

February 19 2013

9:05 AM

The Mental Game: Merrick's trust

John Merrick got his first career victory Sunday at Riviera. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)

By Dr. Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM

For 2013 Northern Trust Open Champion John Merrick, it was was all about "trust."

When Merrick was at UCLA, he had the opportunity to play Riviera twice a month on a regular basis. Given the numerous times he walked those hallow grounds, Merrick had a home course advantage over most of the field.

How many strokes does home field advantage give you?

Sports psychology researchers have discovered that there is a home field advantage in every sport, with the NBA being the highest at a slight edge of a 5 to 10 percent increase in wins when teams play at home. This is followed by the NFL, which has a 3 to 6 percent better chance at winning on home turf. 

While it is more difficult to statistically discern a home course advantage in golf, there is one.

Reasons abound for playing better on your home course: You know where to miss it. You know the exact yardage every hole plays. You know which green surfaces are softer and which ones are harder.

The biggest home course advantage in golf however is trust in the greens. You know exactly how the greens will break, and as a consequence, you trust your stroke.

For Merrick, he could trust his read and stroke at a much higher level than most of the other players in the field. From years of experience, Merrick knew how those tricky greens break.

Trust is essential for your mental game. When you have a high level of trust, you will feel much more confortable and relaxed. This will increase your chances of making a smooth, aggressive stroke and you'll hole more putts.

When you don’t have trust, doubt creeps into your mind. Being unsure will greatly increase your anxiety and decrease your chance of making a committed stroke.

How many times did you miss a putt because you were uncommitted to the line?

Here is my mental game recommendation: Increase your trust factor. Think about your home course and how you trust your reads on those greens. Your goal is to take that feeling to every course you play. Make the read and trust it like one on your home course.

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.


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