August 17, 2008

Maintain a Positive Mental Attitude...

Coaches and Drill Sergeants love to invoke the importance of "PMA" almost every chance they get and, unless you’re a nightclub comedian whose routine is based on sadness and despair, you’ll need a lot of PMA everyday of your life just to survive and prosper.

PMA stands for "Positive Mental Attitude."

Maintaining a positive mental attitude is vital, not only on the golf course, but in everyday life as well and I will be the first to admit that its not an easy thing to do when everything seems to be crashing down around you.

I, and many others believe that golf is a microcosm of life and, as such, can actually help people expose and identify flaws in their character which might not appear in normal life for years, but they’re there nonetheless.

Some fortunate people have never faced a pressure-cooker situation at work or home. Their lives are ideal and everything comes up roses for them every morning. They have 2.5 children, a great job with a good boss, stock options, a nice house and car and a loving, caring wife.

Yet, these are the same people who lose it one day, pick up an axe and wipe out an entire neighbourhood. When the police interview the surviving neighbours, they always say "He was a quiet man…"

But, if you ever played golf with these people, you’d probably see that they begin to melt down the moment they hit a ball into the water and before you know it, they follow each mistake with another until the wheels come off completely.

Having never faced severe adversity, they don’t know how to handle it.

I’ve always thought that any psychiatrist smart enough to open an office inside the clubhouse of a popular golf course would make a fortune because there is no better laboratory to study the human condition than a golf course and, since the flaws are exposed for all to see right then and there, treatment is easier.

Look, you put a major head case on a psychiatrist’s couch, feed him drugs and therapy it will take months or years to learn how to handle his problems without losing control, but if you get him onto the golf course and teach him how to avoid making two mistakes in a row, or how to rectify his mistake without compounding it, and he’ll recover much faster.

Someone once said that "you don’t have to be crazy to play golf, but it helps." And we can all relate to people claiming the game drives them crazy, but I think it’s the other way around. Golf doesn’t really drive anyone crazy because chances are they’ve always been a bit crazy, but the game helps bring it to the surface.

Sergio Garcia is someone who needs to really reinforce his PMA, especially after coming in second three times in a major tournament. That puts his major’s record at zero for 38. Not a good thing, but not necessarily a bad thing either because other players went even longer without a major win.

Mickelson went something like 46 or 48 tries without a major win, but once he got his first, the others were a bit easier mentally.

Sergio is more talented than most of the players out there, but obviously he’s not there yet. His weakness is that he still has a huge chip on his shoulder and that character flaw keeps popping up to haunt him at the worst times.

Garcia still acts as though the world is out to get him.

He blames bad luck or opponent’s lucky bounces for his continued losses, but refuses to consider that this mind-set causes him to fold under pressure. At the worst possible moment, his putter will let him down. There’s nothing wrong with his stroke, it’s his head that causes the problem.

Look, if you expect to lose, you will. If you convince yourself that the odds are against you, they will be…Psychology 101.

One thing Harrington had in his favour was experience and confidence in his ability to make putts under pressure.

Once Sergio stops blaming the world for his troubles and accepts responsibility for his actions, he will begin to make the putts that have been eluding him and a major victory will soon follow.

Back to Issues