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The Tour Report

October 22 2013

10:57 AM

Mental Game: Improve like Simpson

By Dr. Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM

The road to his latest victory had taken 16 months. But Webb Simpson stayed patient and entered the winner’s circle at the TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Simpson stated that he knew he was improving, and that was his primary focus. But don’t be fooled with that statement as Simpson also wanted to win badly. Also, Simpson stated that he didn’t want to be that guy who pops up and wins a major (he won the 2012 U.S. Open) and then disappears. However, Simpson believed the victories would happen with improvement so he did not force the issue.

Simpson is following what sport psychology researchers have discovered based upon the achievement goal theory.  The most successful golfers are both mastery goal oriented (which is a focus on improvement) as well as competitive goal oriented (which is a focus on winning and being the best).  In addition, sports psychologists have discovered that when the focus is primarily on being the best, a competitive goal orientation, then there is a greater likelihood of dropping out of the sport. Not everyone can be the best -- but everyone can improve.

Having both goal orientations gives you balance and allows you stay motivated and confident when the victories are not happening. Simpson’s mental game approach gave him that edge.

Here are a few suggestions to help you stay motivated and confident when times are difficult:

1) Like Simpson, focus on getting better. Have specific measurable improvement goals such as hitting more greens in regulation as well as hitting more fairways. Keep a record to see if you are improving.

2) Like Simpson, also focus on winning or being the best on your team. This goal could also relate to being a starter on your team. A focus on being the best keeps that fire inside to burn bright and creates the energy to practice all those long hours.                                                                              

Being highly competitive is essential in our highly competitive world. But let’s be honest, we can’t always win and be the best. A focus on improving and mastery of the skill keeps us going through the tough times. Have balance with both goals and you will reach your golfing potential!   

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 reach him for mental game coaching and get your autographed copy at www.drgreggsteinberg.com.

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