DAY 1: DEALING WITH THE MASTERS NERVES
Ultimately, the key to performing well in Majors, especially the Masters, is having that intense self-belief that you CAN perform at the highest level.
Dealing with nerves at Augusta is no different for every player - whether you've won numerous times or you're a Masters first-timer, the experience is all the same. It's all about how you handle your nerves.
The best players prepare very thoroughly and then have the ability to let go and trust when Thursday rolls around.
The best preparation for any major tournament depends on the player themselves. Some like to practice their putting strokes for hours upon hours until they feel they have achieved utter perfection. Others like to relax and mentally prepare as they enter day one. The best preparation is finding out what works best for YOU.
When working with Nick Faldo, we had his preparation down like clockwork.
We would map out every single inch of Augusta, as did Jack Nicklaus and many other past champions. We would look at the map together, determine our best strategy depending on his current game and plan out every shot - whether it be a hard draw on 10 or a high fade on 11.
For Faldo, our most important preparation began with the short game. We would take detailed notes every year at the Masters and study them the next January prior to the tournament. We would go through every little detail, mapping out the different types of shots, what worked and what didn't.
The intense detail many pros, including Faldo, go into when preparing for the biggest tournament of their lives can be related to any amateur golfer as they prepare for their upcoming tournament. The more work you put into preparing, the higher the chances of success in the end.
Best of luck to all the players in The Masters this week and to all of you as you prepare for your upcoming tournaments.
Who will put on the green jacket this year? I look forward to finding out.
Day 2: PUTTING ON FAST GREENS
HOW TO MASTER YOUR STROKE
Augusta National is known for many things. The tradition, the gorgeous greenery, the prestige. One thing that Augusta is most widely known for from a players point of view is the fast greens. The greens are unlike any other course on the PGA Tour. So how do players master their putting stroke prior to their first round?
Over the years I have picked player's brains on how they best prepare for Augusta's fast greens. Similar to yesterday's tip, players typically will find what strategy works best for them and stick with it. Preparation is the key to success after all.
Some players would tell me they practice their putting on their smooth kitchen floors. Others, like Ian Woosnam, would stand on top of their pool table and practice putting to get used to the slick speed prior to their practice rounds at Augusta.
For most players, those methods above were a bit extreme. Many would tell me that they would travel to various courses to find similar green speeds and practice away until they felt they were ready to master Augusta's greens.
The key to performing well at Augusta is strategically aiming every shot to avoid the fastest putt on each green. It's not as easy as it sounds, especially when hole 17 creeps up and there is practically no way to avoid a slick downhill putt.
When it comes to putting, there are some technical keys you can focus on to make sure your stroke is pristine for putting on quick surfaces:
1. Light grip pressure is a must.
- Having a light grip pressure allows a player to feel the weight of the putter and keep their tempo and rhythm soft and smooth.
- To prepare many of my players for quick greens, I like to have them practice dying the putts into the hole, with maximum break and dropping in the cup speed.
2. Switching to a soft face putter.
- Switching to a soft face putter allows a lot of players to develop a softer roll and make a quick adjustment to Augusta's greens.
- Setup is arguably the most important aspect of the entire game, especially when it comes to putting. To deaden the roll on especially quick greens, set the ball on the toe of the putter to get the ball rolling softer.
Preparation is key, whether you insist on practicing on pool tables or your favorite local course.
Day 3: How to Prepare the Night Before
The key to mastering Augusta, let alone any tournament, is making sure you have the correct game plan.
Augusta is known for being one of the most difficult courses in the world to navigate. In order for every player to be successful in the end, they must play to their strengths and make sure their route through the course is as easy and efficient as possible.
The night before the first round, many players will be relaxing and spending time with family, trying to treat the event like any other.
The player's physical preparation relates back to what I mentioned on Monday and Tuesday. Figuring out the best on-course strategy, keying in on fixing the imperfections in their swing, and repeatedly practicing their putting strokes on quick greens.
Ultimately, every player will go through their individual plan for the next few days in terms of what strategy they are planning on implementing and sticking with, checking the wind and weather conditions, and not thinking too much about what's in store for the days to come.
Playing at the highest level in golf goes far beyond physical preparation. One of the most important things for any top player to do is to mentally prepare for what's ahead. Many will visualize themselves going through every single hole at Augusta. Some even visualize putting on the green jacket on Sunday. Mental toughness is always a major component of every top player's strategy to allow them to perform at their absolute peak in high-pressure situations.
Visualization is important whether you are prepping to compete in your local amateur tournament, or your eyes are set on the green jacket. Some key ways to best mentally prepare are to really make sure your body is fully relaxed and your mind is quiet, then try to re-create some of your fondest memories on the golf course and feel the excitement of competing at your peak. Sometimes it even helps to see yourself hitting that shot in the water and bouncing back flawlessly afterward. After all, no golf round is ever perfect.
All of these mental toughness tips allow you to have a positive attitude, confidence, and willingness to tackle any challenge that comes your way.
Competing at Augusta is an experience unlike any other. Best of luck to all of the players as they enter a tradition unlike any other.
Day 4: Dealing With Nerves on Day 1
On the first day of a Major, a player experiences the typical nerves of competing at the highest level. The amount of pressure the players have, in any tournament let alone the Masters, is incomparable.
Handling nerves, especially on day 1, is key to performing well in the end.
Prior to day 1, players train for hours upon hours perfecting their swing and on-course strategy. When Thursday rolls around, it's important for players to trust themselves, stay confident, handle their nerves, and try to score the lowest round possible.
Many successful coaches will structure a players game plan to allow them to achieve peak performance on the exact week of the tournament. However, this isn't as easy as it sounds. Some of the key factors that a coach should focus on when creating a game plan for the week are solid technique, mental and physical toughness, as well as a carefully planned preparation day in order for the player to feel confident going into day 1.
Looking back on the career of Nick Faldo, he was a master of getting into the zone during the Majors. We worked tremendously hard on his technique months prior to every Major, but the turning point came when he was able to control his nerves, feel his swing, and let go of the pressure.
So how can you perform like a pro and master your nerves prior to day 1?
- Make sure your technical work is done in advance and is prepped in a way that allows you to be ready for your particular tournament
- Focus on deep breathing techniques in between shots and in your pre-shot routine
- This makes your muscles contract and the nerves are calmed instantly
- Maintain light grip pressure throughout the round
- The fight-or-flight response kicks in when playing any high-level tournament. One way tension, nerves, and fear manifest in the body is to tensely grip onto the club. Try to imagine tension and nerves leaving your body and maintaining a 2/10 grip pressure. This technique will allow you to feel at ease and replicate the quality of shots you hit on the driving range.
Ultimately, the key to handling nerves is to make sure you have an action plan for when you begin to feel nervous and tense. Every player makes mistakes during a round, but the most successful players turn those mistakes into new opportunities.