I recently read an old article about professional golfer, Y.E.Yang, who took over Tiger Woods' lead at the 2009 PGA Championship to win it! He stopped Tiger's "14 for 14" record for when Tiger had the lead after 54 holes.
Yang was interviewed after he won the tournament and besides all the questions regarding Tiger (which I was miffed at - Yang won his first major but the interview was a lot about Tiger, which I thought was unfair to Yang), he was also asked about his mental game and how he handles pressure.
While I wrote a blog article a few months ago listing the tips I have learned over the years on how to handle pressure, I enjoyed Yang's comments so much about pressure, I wanted to share with you these Q and A's as excellent reminders:
"Your caddie said that you're the mentally toughest player he's ever seen. Where does that toughness come from?"
I don't think it's toughness, but I do try to block out everything peripheral and just concentrate on my strategy. Thus I become oblivious to any and all pressure, or least try to.
" Did you employ any special techniques to help offset Tiger's aura?"
I just forgot that I was dealing with Tiger altogether, probably until the 18th green, when I acknowledged that Tiger could make a miraculous comeback. I just played my game.
"You said that great names play with Tiger and "their competitive juices flow and they go head-to-head with him and try to win." Why is that the wrong approach?"
I can't say that is a wrong approach, but through experience, i understand aggressiveness can go a long way, but too much pressure and added expectations can become negative variables. I think sometimes the players add unnecessary pressure upon themselves.
These answers are common against successful professional athletes.
It reminds me of that famous quarterback who said, basically: "I think the reason I'm so successful is because I'm forgetful. As soon as the play is over, I've already forgot what happened, so I don't have any negative thoughts or over-confidence from what just happened to affect my next football pass."
I wrote this blog entry about two weeks ago on a layover at JFK. But it was just a first draft and I am just now posting it after editing it some more. :-)
These two main themes above crossed my mind when I won the tourney last weekend: I tried to remind myself not to play the player and I also tried to forget mistakes as soon as they happened. I'm a firm believer in figuring out right away why I made a mistake, but then it's key to let the mistake go so you don't dwell on things such as "it should be 3-0, ME, not 1-2, THEM" or "I still can't believe I missed that 8 ball two games ago."). Focusing on past events prevents you from focusing on the present (i.e. on that shot in front of you).
While I tried to think about the above, I wasn't successful 100% of the time during the tourney, but I definitely thought about the two main themes a few times when I felt nervous. And then later when I was in the zone, all the above kinda happen on it's own, lol. But you can give yourself a better chance with nerves and pressure if you can incorporate the above at times in your arsenal during or before a tourney.