Cope with pressure like Tiger Woods

A two-time European Tour winner offers four useful ways to deal with on-course pressure...

The best for mental strength was Tiger Woods, certainly before ‘everything happened’. The putts to win Majors against Bob May and Rocco Mediate were ridiculous; it is impossible for human beings to hole those sorts of putts. The one against Mediate at the US Open at Torrey Pines was bouncing all over the place yet still he holed it.

Here are four tips that will help you rise to the occasion when the pressure is on.

Learn to breathe

THE most nervous I have been, and I don’t quite understand it, was at Tour School.
My rational brain couldn’t quite work it out, nobody was going to die, the family wasn’t going to disappear but, for some reason, I took a swing at this shot and my foot wouldn’t come off the ground. And it was because I could hardly breathe.
Learning to breathe properly is so important, talk to any top player and they will all be very aware of their breathing.
There is not a lot of pressure when you are doing well as a big cheque is just around the corner – the real pressure is when you are fighting for your job.
The caddy is also crucial in helping you not to speed up. You don’t want to slow the game down but, at times, you just need to take your time.
The putts to win Majors against Bob May and Rocco Mediate were ridiculous; it is impossible for human beings to hole those sorts of putts.

Pressure putting

KEEPING the head down when putting is vital, it is very easy to have an early glance and come up short and right.
Once the putt moves off the spot there is almost a transparent ball left behind and if you can see that, then you are doing OK.
The grip pressure gets tight but the main thing is to keep your head down.
I always tried to have no more than two swing thoughts. Going back 10 years, Lee Westwood told me that he had four – which I could never get my head round.
You need to have an impeccable pre-shot routine. Mine was so sub-conscious that I can’t really tell you what it was. I eventually learned to have a library of visualising where the shot would end up and the good feelings of that swing as opposed to the flight of the ball.

Getting help

I HAVE seen all sorts of psychologists, I think they are all in the mental institute after working with me.
I saw them all, every single one.  Psychology in golf has changed over the years. It used to be all about positivity but there is a great downside to that and you are almost exacerbating the rollercoaster which you don’t want to be on.
You want to be steadier in your thinking. If you miss the putt you miss it. If you miss a fairway then it’s not the end of the world. The culture of yoga and Tai Chi hasn’t really been embraced and that has surprised me. When a weightlifter is getting ready to lift he knows how to breathe properly, likewise athletes. As a golfer you think all you have to do is swing properly and that’s not the case.

The Ryder Cup

THE first few holes were alright, I was ready for it having been omitted for the first two days.
All the thoughts go through your head on the 1st tee (v Tiger Woods) and I ended up hitting it right off the top of the club.
On the 2nd tee I had a 3-iron in my hand and you are thinking how on earth am I going to hit this. But after another hole or two you are thinking how much you love it. If you could train somebody to be able to replicate that feeling before they went out then you would have a very interesting competitor.
Martin Kaymer was incredibly ice-like under pressure a couple of years ago. You need to understand that everyone is under pressure and everybody is acting to make it look like they are relaxed.  

  • Andrew and European Tour coach Gary Nicol now run Tour Pro Experience Golf Schools (TPEGS) which is a bespoke school to improve your game at Archerfield Links:
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