The Tour Report

September 17 2013

1:29 PM

Mental Game: Try easy like Johnson

By Dr. Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM

One of the main reasons Zach Johnson won the BMW Championship was that he was trying not to win. Zach also mentioned he was trying not to get into the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola as well as trying not to get onto the American team for The Presidents Cup. Zach Johnson mentioned he was just playing golf and letting those events unfold.

Let’s clarify this key point: Zach Johnson was trying easy instead of trying hard. Trying easy relates to the amount of intensity level you give toward an event. Trying easy implies that you are giving the appropriate amount of effort to excel at the task. Zach Johnson was at his perfect intensity level at Conway Farms this past weekend because he was trying easy instead of trying too hard.

Trying hard can be very detrimental to your success. In an interesting experiment with Olympic runners, they were asked to run the first race at 100 percent intensity level (or in other words, they were asked to try as hard as they can). In the second race, the runners were asked to give 90 percent (or in other words, they were asked to try easier). Amazingly, they ran faster at the 90 percent intensity level.

Trying too hard can limit your foot speed as well as your swing speed. Forcing the issue and giving all your energy can cause excessive muscle tension, slowing down your arm speed and trunk rotation. However, trying easy should promote a more relaxed feeling that helps to create a greater shoulder turn and faster arm speed. This relaxed feeling can contribute to effortless power.

To try easy like Zach Johnson, here are a few mental game recommendations:

1) Develop a personalized scale of intensity level ranging between zero-100 (based upon a 10-point scale). Make zero being completely flat with very low intensity and 100 being totally amped up and a very high level of intensity.

2) Recall two or three events you played really well on the golf course and rank your intensity level. Some golfers may play their best at 60 while others may play their best at 80. Everyone is unique and you must find your best intensity level.

3) Discover ways to get into your best intensity level. If you play your best golf at lower levels of intensity, then use techniques such as imagery and breathing to get calmer. If you play your best when amped up, then use techniques to get more pumped up. Perhaps an easy slap on the thigh during your pre-shot routine can create a pump in your intensity level.

Get into your best intensity level for effortless power and your best golf.

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. 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