In order to handle extreme pressure, there needs to be some sort of big picture perspective also. If we live and die based on how we perform, then we can be left elated, but also devastated.
If we understand that we can only do what we can do to our best ability, then we can deal with not coming through under pressure.
It was a weekend of redemption, of amazing comebacks and awesome feel good stories in sports. If you are a fan of great endings, this past Sunday was full of them, wasn't it? (And yes, I say this as a die-hard Giants fan. Wait, as a die-hard World Champions Giants fan.)
At one point this season, the New York Giants were 7-7 and many were calling for a coaching change, a quarterback change or team uniform change, something! But the team believed in what they were doing, believed in their coach and believed, most importantly, in themselves. They did not panic, they won critical games and peaked at the right time. Now they have their fourth Lombardi Trophy.
What does this have to do with golf? Well, quite a bit. Look no further than earlier in the day when Kyle Stanley, recovering from a disastrous meltdown on the final hole last week at Torrey Pines, believed in himself, didn't panic or make drastic changes and came charging back from 8 shots back to win the Waste Management Open at TPC Scottsdale.
At some point, we are all going to have failings on the golf course. How we react to those missed putts, sprayed drives and flubbed chips will determine whether we ever have the chance to rise above them and distinguish ourselves as champions (whether it's your weekend match, club championship or at a major.)
So how do you deal with tough situations and bounce back? I have three thoughts.
1.) Practice, practice, practice. When the pressure gets intense, you need to let muscle memory and solid fundamentals take over. Five minutes at the range before you tee off for the day doesn't count. Get some reps in! This is especially true following a bad shot.
2.) Get a solid routine. This helps alleviate pressure as well. Firing the trigger is just part of the routine. No chance to freeze if you are going through a comfortable routine (but don't take five minutes like certain Tour pros.) Think about the players as they played the famous 16th hole this week. With large, often boisterous and rowdy crowds waiting to cheer or jeer, they could not afford to think about the reception they'd get from their shot. They had to think about executing the shot. Rely on the routine.
3.) Discipline. My way of saying, "Stay cool." It's ok to get excited, to be happy, but if you rely on that emotion, it probably gets you in trouble as much as it helps you too. If you live and die by your golf game, well, you probabably take it too seriously (touring pros excluded), but also, it can devastate you more than it should.
Had a bad hole? Bad round? It's an opportunity to bounce back in a great way. The old adage that the you can't learn to win until you learn how to lose is very true. Kyle Stanley is going to be one of the great golf and sports stories of the year because he took what could have been a really rotten story and turned it around into a great one. Congrats to him and what a great lesson for all of us. (Oh, and so did the Giants!)
Teaching Professional at the Greens at Half Hollow and Pete's Golf Shop, a Golf Digest Top 100 Club Fitter, SAM Putt Lab Instructor, and prolific golf tweeter. You can follow him on twitter at @KirkOguri