Psychology of the Master’s Golf Tournament

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As master of the game of golf, Bobby Jones recognized that being good at golf was not only about having good woods and irons. Bobby Jones once said, “Golf is a game that is played on a 5 inch course – the distance between your ears.” Bobby Jones had a lot of physical attributes going for him on the course, but there is no doubt that he also recognized the importance of the mental aspect of the game.

For those of you who watched the Master’s golf tournament over the weekend, as usual the athletic performance from these professional golfers did not disappoint.  At the end of the second to last day, the leader was a young 20 year-old golfer named Jordan Spieth.  During his interview prior to the last day of the tournament, he discussed that in order for him to win the tournament, he would need to maintain the mental component of the game.  Jordan did not mention any physical aspects of his performance that needed to improve, he simply stated that he needed to be to mentally sound to win.

As a sport psychologist, I was very happy to hear Jordan Spieth openly talk about the importance of his mental game to his performance.  He believed that his strong mental game would ultimately lead him to win the Master’s tournament.  While working in the field of sport psychology, I often encounter lack of knowledge and understanding of what sport psychology is and how an athlete can benefit from working with a sport a psychologist.  A large part of being a sport psychologist is educating the public on the benefits of working with a sport psychologist as well as increasing their awareness and exposure to the field of sport psychology as well as reducing the negative stigma that is often associated in working with a sport psychologist.

In the end, Jordan Spieth did not end up winning the Master’s tournament.  He did, however, give an incredibly valiant effort.  It did seem as though his mental game was not as sound as he wanted it to be and knew that it needed to be to win the tournament.  My hope is that as more and more athletes will openly discuss the importance of sport psychology and even talking about their own personal experience working with a sport psychologist and the positive impact it had on their performance.  Another example that comes to mind is Misty May and Kerri Walsh in the most recent summer Olympics.  They openly discussed that they had worked with a sport psychologist and that they felt it helped them to perform more successfully.  I would like to see more and more athletes recognize the positive effects that sport psychology can have on their performance and begin to incorporate mental skills training into their routine just as they do for their physical training.

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