Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to describe how the Masters, perhaps the world’s most demanding tournament in terms of the golf mental game, continues to take its toll on contenders — a fact that fits perfectly with PGA teacher Rick Sessinghaus’s instructional piece, which originally ran in 2011.
IF YOU DON’T THINK professional golfers play under considerable pressure, then you may not have seen two recent Masters Tournaments — or any major you can think of, for that matter.
In the 2016 Masters, Jordan Spieth looked like a lock to notch his second straight green jacket as he stood on the 10th tee. Then came two straight bogeys and the hard-to-watch meltdown at the dastardly par 3 12th, where he rinsed two balls en route to a quadruple bogey and eventual finish well behind Danny Willett.
In 2017 Spieth make another quad, this time on No. 15, though earlier in the tournament, which gave him time to recover and get in the hunt. Alas, both he and his final round playing partner, Rickie Fowler, faded down the stretch while the long-denied Sergio Garcia finally notched his first major — chiefly through managing his emotions.
Other recent major meltdowns abound.
Back in 2010, at the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, the third-round leaders (Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney, respectively) fell victim to the incredible pressure and ballooned to final rounds in the 80s. With all eyes on them, these two young promising players struggled mightily under enormous pressure. It was tough to watch them collapse, and something all too familiar to the average golfer. Both players unraveled early, and unfortunately, once the dam started to crack, it burst apart under the weight of pressure. They both eventually regrouped, but the damage was irreparable.
Why does this happen? And, more to the point, exactly what happened and how can you avoid a similar fate when the pressure is on you?
First, it’s important to know that your thoughts and emotions directly impact how you perform, so you have to be aware of how your mind reacts to challenging circumstances. You have to be mentally tough, so you can bounce back after a bad hole, poor shot, bad bounce or disappointing round. Your mind is your most important piece of golf equipment, and, after watching how bravely Dustin Johnson fought his way back to contend at the 2010 PGA Championship, I was happy to see that he recovered so well from his disappointing U.S. Open finish.
To help you become a mentally tough golfer, I’ve devised what I call the Five Cs for Competitive Golf. By learning the Five Cs, any golfer, regardless of his or her skill level, will strengthen mind power. Read on, and get tough.