How to develop the mental toughness of a US Open champion

By David MacKenzie

  1. SELF-BELIEF

Look at the names on that leaderboard, and you’ll notice they all have a manner about them which exudes self-assuredness and self-belief. They believe they are capable of winning a major championship. They are very comfortable with themselves—they know their strengths and their weaknesses and they are honest about their fears. They appreciate themselves deep down no matter what the result.

  1. GRIT

Champions have an huge desire to succeed but know that it’s a tough road to achieve it. They love the fight—it brings the best out of them. Teeing it up in those final few groups today will undoubtedly make them nervous, but they see that pressure as a privilege—it’s been earned. Strength comes from the struggle.

  1. WORK ETHIC

All the guys in contention today will have put in a lot of work to get where they are. It will have been instilled in them from a young age that success is not given, it’s earned.

  1. ACTING SKILLS

Champions can act themselves toward confidence. By using body language and self-talk, they can summon feelings of strength and power at will. They know the power of sports psychology.

  1. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL

There will be a lot going on out there today outside of a player’s control. Heavy winds are predicted and there always will be some good and bad luck involved in golf. All these players have become skilled in emotionally detaching themselves from things they can’t control, such as weather, course conditions, what other players are doing, bad bounces and most important, the past or future. They focus only on what they can control—hitting the best golf shot they possibly can and accepting the outcome.

  1. POSITIVE ATTITUDE

Every hole is a birdie opportunity.

  1. ACCEPTANCE

The champion will have to be accepting today. Focusing on the present (as if the past and future don’t exist) will be an essential skill for winning. The champion won’t be burning mental energy on how he wished he’d done this or that, instead, he’ll refocus and get back in the moment.

  1. THEY NEVER STOP LEARNING

To get to this point takes a “growth mind-set”—champions learn from every round, regardless of the result. Talent and ability is nurtured, it’s not predetermined. Champions are not afraid of failure as it’s a great teacher. They adapt and grow without comparing themselves to others.

  1. THEY KNOW HOW TO RELAX UNDER PRESSURE AND STAY PRESENT

Champions are able to calm themselves down in the pressure moments. Notice this today. Good breathing, slowing things down, talking to the caddy, etc. will all be strategies they use to diffuse negative emotions, ease tension and stay calm in pressure situations.

  1. CHAMPIONS HAVE GOALS (SHORT AND LONG TERM)

They have goals. What does success look like for you? Whether it’s winning the US Open or winning the club championship, you must define and imagine it. Dream big and then figure out how you can take a small step towards it this week.

****

David MacKenzie is a performance coach and the founder of Golf State of Mind.

Throughout David’s playing career, he learned quickly how attitude, self-belief and mental toughness affect performance in golf. He knew that was the difference between his average and great rounds. But the question was how did one improve these valuable skills and feel more confident more often?

While studying at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland, David began in-depth research into sport psychology and how elite performers apply their minds to practice and play. He interviewed hundreds of elite golfers and sport psychologists. He shared what he discovered via his web site, Golf State of Mind and it quickly resonated with golfers of all levels.

David was able to effectively communicate the mental and emotional issues that most golfers face on the golf course. The web site quickly became one of the most popular mental game resources for golf on The Web and David was able to utilize his audience by testing and proving new ways for golfers to reach “the peak performance” state more frequently.