Golf is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. The battle inside the ropes is not simply one against the course and other players, it’s also a battle with your mind.
Lapses in focus can be disastrous — especially at a course as treacherous as the Ocean Course. With the blustery conditions like the players are facing at this week’s PGA Championship, anything but total commitment to every shot can result in posting a huge number on the scorecard.
Phil Mickelson has done a spectacular job of keeping those big numbers off the scorecard so far this week. On his way to posting five under and holding the 36-hole lead, Mickelson has yet to post a score worse than bogey, a crucial element to making a run at a major title.
Although Mickelson’s driver’s license shows his age as 50, his game looks anything but old. His bombing drives keep up with the young stars and his touch is still as soft as it was when he made his PGA Tour debut three decades ago.
In addition to these physical traits that keep him competitive, Mickelson’s mind is also as sharp as ever. This ability to focus has been one of the main reasons his name graces the top of the leaderboard this week.
‘Elongating’ your focus
The key to this sharp mental game is a regimented playing routine Lefty uses as he grinds on his game week in and week out. When he’s not at a tournament, Mickelson tries to play a minimum of two rounds per day — with tournament-level focus on each shot — to keep his mental game sharp.
“I’m just making more and more progress just by trying to elongate my focus,” Mickelson said after his second-round 69. “I might try to play 36, 45 holes in a day and try to focus on each shot so that when I go out and play 18, it doesn’t feel like it’s that much.”
Physically, Mickelson said he feels as good as he ever has. But keeping his mental game sharp has been the biggest challenge in his advancing age.
“I’m trying to use my mind like a muscle and just expand it,” he said. “As I’ve gotten older, it’s been more difficult for me to maintain a sharp focus, a good visualization and see the shot.”