Nicola Ellwood is a Master Performance Coach who specialises in mentally conditioning athletes to perform to their maximum potential. In this exclusive piece for bunkered.co.uk, she explains how the players competing in The Masters this week can get the most out of both themselves and their talents...
This is it - you’re about to play in The Masters.
You’ve fought for this for so long and now you’ve got there. Soon, you’ll be taking to Augusta National, one of the most beautiful courses in the world: the pink azaleas that surround the lush greens, the warm breeze, the crowds, the applause, the cheers, the energy, and hopefully, at the end of it all, you’ll go home with a nice new jacket.
It's all within your grasp – it’s so close. You want it. Your team want it. Your family want it. Your supporters want it.
That, in turn, brings pressure to play well. What if you don't hit it good? What if you can’t deliver the goods when you need to? What if you don't play the way you know you can?
These may be something similar to the thoughts in the players’ minds as they approach the final days leading up to this year’s tournament Masters. Even the most seasoned major winners will likely feel it to some extent or another.
Take Rory for example. He’ll be riding a high after his win at Bay Hill. The odds are in his favour, his game is ideally suited to this course and some might say he is bound to win there one day, eventually. Given this pressure, how will he ensure he maintains his mental state and doesn’t unravel, as he did in 2011? How will he ensure he plays the way he wants to? How will he ensure he continues to ride that current high he’s own and turn it into a Masters win?
And then there’s Tiger, above. He’s got four green jackets already and, given the way he has started this season, given all of his recent injury problems, he’s poised to complete one of the best comebacks in the history of golf – sport, even – should he win this coming week? Back in his heyday, he was tough, confident and smart. Can he be this version of himself this year? Or will the pressure derail him? How will he manage his game and allow himself to just play in the way he knows he can?
All of the players in the field this week know they are up there with the best. Their mental strength (or skill, as I prefer to call it) could be the difference in setting them apart from the rest. Rory credited his Bay Hill success to a new mindset and philosophical approach to his putting after consulting with Brad Faxon.
All players have the resources within themselves to play well. Mentally, they just need to focus on the right things and tune in to deliver the goods when needed.
The following handy little model may help players connect to the version of themselves they want to be in order to manage their games and manage their emotional state on the day.
See. Feel. Know.
See yourself achieve
Cast your mind into the future and visualise exactly how you want to play during the tournament. Hole by hole - all 18 of them, one after the next. See yourself flowing through the tournament being the version of yourself who plays, thinks and reacts exactly in a way that will serve you well. See yourself preparing for the shot, being in ‘the zone’, hitting the ball and transitioning between holes perfectly. Notice what you look like, how you behave, what you do. Visualising this way sets your intention and gives your unconscious mind the information it needs to give you the best chance of doing that that.
Feel on top of your game
How do you want to feel? Confident? At ease? Relaxed? Focussed? Where and when do you want to feel that, most of all, during the tournament? Can you remember a time in the past where you felt exactly that (golf or otherwise)? Go there in your memory now and remember how that felt. Where were you? What could you hear around you? What did you say to yourself there, then? How did it feel? Good? Now, imagine yourself feeling that way, at the required point during the tournament. Notice how useful that sensation is. You have all the resources within you to feel this way.
Know you are ready
Know that you’ve climbed a mountain to get here and feel proud of yourself for being here. Know that you’ve the right team around you; that you’re physically, technically and mentally ready. You’ve put in the work. In essence, this is a game of golf no different from any other. It’s just 18 holes. You’ve played many rounds before. It’s just you and the ball. You’ve got this.
Ultimately, we’ve only got some control on the actual outcome or result we want to achieve. We do, though, have total control over how we behave, feel and play and it’s this control that could make all the difference. We must set our intention and mentally give ourselves the best chance to achieve our desired outcomes.
So, set your intention - see yourself doing it, feel ready and know you can.
Nicola Ellwood is a Master Performance Coach, Mind-set Coach and NLP Master Practioner. Follow Nicola on Twitter or send her an email: firstname.lastname@example.org