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The Tour Report

May 13 2013

3:38 PM

The Mental Game: Selective amnesia

Selective amnesia worked quite well for Tiger Woods on Sunday. (Heathcote/Getty Images)

By Dr. Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM

During the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship on Sunday at TPC Sawgrass, Tiger Woods hit one of his worst tee shots on the 14th hole. He hit a pop up left that hooked into the water. He proceeded to make a double bogey. This shot could have started a train wreck on such a difficult and treacherous course, but it did not. Tiger said that he just “forgot about it”, and moved onto the 15th hole where, in his words, hit one of his best tee shots of the day.
When I do golf psychology seminars around the country, I always get the question “What is one main difference between the great players on the PGA TOUR that win and those players that choke under pressure?” My answer is that the great ones have “selective amnesia.”
Woods is phenomenal in his ability to forget about his bad shots. He can quickly let go of any negative images in his mind from the past. This ability has led to his great resiliency to hit bad shots but then rebound to victory, as demonstrated by his win at THE PLAYERS Championship.
Instead of selective amnesia, most amateur golfers have rapid recall of their worst shots and “choking” moments. They don’t remember the first four holes in which they hit a beautiful tee shot, but instead, that snap hook from the fifth hole will linger in their mind for the entire round.
If Woods can hit a pop up that ends in the water, and quickly move on, so can you. You will always hit a few real stinkers during the round. You are only human. However, rapid recall of this negative baggage will only hurt your chances of finishing the round off strongly and with a great score.
We are told that forgetfulness is a bad trait. That’s true when it comes to forgetting where you put your keys or your wallet. However, forgetfulness can be a very desirable trait on the golf course, especially when it concerns your history of bad shots.
Bio: 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 www.drgreggsteinberg.com.