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Mental Edge: The Tough-Minded Golfer
by Dr. Deborah Graham

One of the most important personality traits that the Champion Tour players share is the ability to be very Tough-Minded in competition. Ernie Els showed how Tough-Minded he can be when he won the U.S. Open at Congressional as well as when he won at Oakmont in a playoff. Both were very tough Open courses with elite fields. The pressure was tremendous, yet he was able to play well with good touch and feel.

Tough-Minded means being selfish and self-centered when in competition. You cannot care about your fellow competitors or allow anything that happens to throw you off. You cannot allow your score, a poor shot or hole or the actions of your competition to have an impact on you.

Peter Mogg recently won the West Michigan Amateur despite a triple bogey eight on the 14th hole, the last round. In the past he would have folded. His swing would have fallen apart and his emotions exploded after such a bad hole. This time he recognized that he had made some mental errors on that hole but he didn't let that ruin his finish. He stayed Tough-Minded and refocused his efforts on those things that he could control. He continued to play one shot at a time. He did not become overly concerned with the score or the situation or panic. He resumed working on a good mental routine for every shot.

Being Tough-Minded on the course is an attitude that you can strengthen. You must first recognize that there are a number of things beyond your control. You cannot control the weather, the conditions, bad luck or bad bounces. You cannot control the other players or your pairings and tee times. You must simply accept these types of things with the understanding that they may be the same for everyone and that you cannot change them. Therefore allowing them to upset you only hurts your ability to perform.

Focus your efforts on those things that you can control. Yourself. The only thing you can truly control is you, what you think and how you react. Recognize that reacting emotionally, good or bad does not help you play better. Understand that becoming stressed by results or score does not help you play better. You have a choice about how you react to situations and results. You have a choice about how you think about your round before you get there. You have a choice about preparing yourself and planning for the round.

Peter Mogg and Ernie Els understand this very well. They have learned to be Tough-Minded when they compete. You can too!

Dr. Graham is a sports psychologist who has more than 200 clients on Tour. To subscribe to her newsletter, GolfPsych Today, call 800-322-5044 or visit her website at http://www.GolfPsych.com

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