Rory McIlroy’s last round collapse at the US Masters is evidence of how pressure can impact in a negative sense on even the very best. *MCT photo
Rory McIlroy’s last round collapse at the US Masters is evidence of how pressure can impact in a negative sense on even the very best. *MCT photo

FRIDAY, JULY 8: One aspect of the game that many club golfers find amazing is how the top players in the world are able to produce such high quality golf under such intense pressure. Rory McIlroy’s last round collapse at the US Masters is evidence of how pressure can impact in a negative sense on even the very best.

On the other side of the coin, Graeme McDowell last year illustrated his ability to cope with the big occasion by winning the US Open and gaining the decisive point at the Ryder Cup with millions watching his every move.

As a rule, most leading players succeed in performing to a high level by keeping their emotions in check and not buckling under pressure.

They do this by not only having a huge amount of talent but by the fact that they fully appreciate that, while they are not in control of all aspects of the situation, such as a rival’s low score, they can ease the pressure by controlling everything that they do and think about.

Golf psychologist Dr Bob Rotella works with many of the leading golfers in the world and calls it ‘staying in the present’.

He has worked with the likes of Padraig Harrington and Davis Love III whose major championships victories are testimony to his influence.

One of the pivotal things that enable these players to stay focused on what they control is their pre shot routines.

Focusing

During the heat of battle, when championships and large prize funds are at stake, players stick religiously to these full routines.

It means that rather than thinking about the situation they are caught up in, they can instead concentrate on executing their routines, to help prepare them to play the next shot to the best of their ability. Focusing on the shot in hand rather than what it means.

Commonly they will have two main areas to their routines.

The first is a decision making area back behind the ball.

This is where they have picked their club, decided on the shot they are going to play and how they are about to play it.

The second is the action area where the player gets on with hitting the shot.

The key for all of these golfers is the decision making area.

None of these players will leave the area until they have completely made up their minds about the upcoming shot.

And once they have entered the action area they make sure they do everything the same so that they feel relaxed during the shot.

Excellent

A good idea for all golfers of all abilities is to develop a pre-shot routine.

Exactly what that is will vary from player to player but I would suggest during practice to try some different routines and find what works best for you.

Pia Nilsson’s book Every shot must have a purpose details an excellent routine where until a decision about the shot is made, you must not approach the ball and the shot should be played without delay.

Ultimately, the secret to playing good golf is to find something that works and stick to it every time just as all the top players in the world demonstrate.