It feels like it has been forever since the last Ryder Cup. As the teams readied themselves last week for the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, the familiar buildup and intensity had arrived.
For decades, this has been the most intense team event in all of golf. And no wonder: the pressure on the players is incredible as each of the players feel the weight of a nation on their shoulders.
I especially like how the Ryder Cup showcases the mental game of golf. We rarely get to see the best golfers in the world crashing up against the outer limits of their mental game capabilities. The choking that we will see this week from fear, stress, overthinking, anxiety, and pressure…that’s the stuff that you and I see (and feel) every weekend!
So, last week we truly watched and learned so much about the mental game.
Some players handled the pressure very well – and others did not. The result? Those who played up to their potential. And those who do not.
In any competitive domain, one of the keys to performing up to your potential lies in your ability to manage your mental and emotional dynamics. In golf, this primarily shows up in how you respond to the variability inherent in the game, as well as things like fears and expectations unmet.
If I go out today and shoot my handicap or lower, it is likely that I have also been successful at managing my potential. If I shoot five or six over my handicap, then perhaps I was not. And after a round like that, I will be asking myself questions like:
- What was bothering me?
- What thinking may have gotten in the way of me playing my best golf?
- How could my thinking on the course have produced better shot-making?
Three years ago, in September of 2018, I wrote some reflections on what we had all seen as Team Europe crushed Team USA by a very lopsided score of 17 ½ to 10 ½. Some players managed their potential well – and others did not.
(Check out my reflections here: http://moenormangolf.com/ryder-cup-thoughts/
Can you notice when the players on the course are impacted by things like the crowd, their competitor’s play, or even the outcomes of their own shots? What do they look like when they hit a poor shot, or when their opponent hits a great shot? What do they do next? Do they show resilience, or do they spiral downward in response to perceived setbacks?
Great players accept the variability in the game: the bad bounces, the missed shots, the opponents who are playing super-hot, the lipped-out putts. They also acknowledge and accept their own fears and anxiousness. And they STILL manage to play at a high level.
Hope you watched and learned last week. If you can begin to notice the mental game dynamics in your favorite players, you may be able to start exploring how some of the same dynamics are showing up in your own game.