Rory’s win at the Deutsche Bank last weekend was an education in the mental game of golf and it showed us exactly what mental skills are needed to win on the PGA Tour.
The interview I’ve posted above gives us some great insight into Rory McIlroy’s mental game as he worked his way back from 6 shots back on Sunday to beat Paul Casey by 2 shots. If you don’t have a spare 18 minutes to watch it, here are the highlights.
Rory was 4 over after the first 3 holes of the tournament. He said, “When you’re 4 over through 3 holes of a tournament, it’s really easy to get down on yourself”. However, Rory was able to process this poor start in the best possible way and decided: “It’s a great opportunity to do something I’ve never done before…to be that far behind and go on to win a golf tournament.” This is brilliant!
How we process negatives on the golf course is a key factor in how we play. Dealing with bad shots, bad lies, bad bounces and poor starts are things that all golfers face.
If you have a “why does this always happen to me?” attitude, your mood will quickly turn downwards and so will your scores. Like Rory did last weekend, you need to re-frame your negative language and replace it with something positive.
“Keep the same positive thought and not get negative”
Rory said that even after a bad shot, he was able “Keep the same positive thought and not get negative”. With re-framing and replacing, you prevent the negative thought-mood cycle from starting and instead, you gain control over what’s happening to your emotions. Psychologists call this “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” (CBT) which gives you control over your mood, instead of it being affected by your external environment.
You can even challenge yourself to do this on the course and write about it in your performance journal after your rounds. Being aware of your thoughts by doing exercises such as this are a great way to start self-correcting on the course.
Rory decided to “Not to get down on myself” and see a positive in a negative. I challenge you to do the same in your next round.
“It’s just incredible in this game how quickly things can change”
Rory said that this was a valuable mental game lesson “for future tournaments if I don’t get off to the start that I want”. In the past Rory said that he’s been guilty of “letting my head go down and my shoulders drop” after poor shots or bad starts, but on this occasion his attitude was one of staying patient and keep going to the end. He kept his chin up and shoulders back – the posture of a winner!
In golf, anything can happen. If you can stay optimistic and believe that there’s “something good around the corner”, you’ll enjoy some strong finishes and more wins like Rory.
How to Learn Rory McIlroy’s Mental Game
Thanks for reading. Reprocessing negatives and keeping your mood positive, is one of the areas of the game we can measure using my mental game scorecard, which you can sign up for below.
Photo courtest of SD Dirk