Ask an expert: How do you control your emotions when in the midst of a special round?

Dustin Johnson is a great example of a player who’s able to keep his mind clear and go with the flow.

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Q: I’m in the midst of a personal-best round. How can I control my mindset to not spoil it?
—H. Woolson, Ojai, Calif.

A: Anyone who plays the game enthusiastically and seriously at any level has been in this place. You’re playing great, enjoying and engaging with the moment, when all of a sudden it occurs to you that something really good might happen if you just keep it going. That awareness is followed by the battle to control your feelings and thoughts, that you need to hold in place what you’ve been doing up to that point and avoid the negative noise.

first tee at the ryder cup
Ask an Expert: What’s the secret to dealing with the first-tee jitters?
By: Dr. Greg Cartin

When you attempt to create and control your thinking to eliminate bad thoughts, things unravel. I often ask golfers what they were doing when they were playing their best and almost all of them have reported that they don’t even know. Most report that they can’t explain what they were actually thinking or doing as they played their best. In spite of the truth of this ignorance-is-bliss state of mind, it’s true that we are constantly seeking information on creating and developing a mindset that allows us to play well.

Instead of trying to control your mindset in these or any other moments, just observe the thoughts and take brief note of how you may be feeling, knowing you can play your best no matter how nervous you are, as long as you can accept and avoid the temptation to change how you feel.

As Bruce Lee said, “Be water, my friend.” Engage with where you are without resisting, and that personal-best round can continue.

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