By: Gregg Steinberg, WGCA contributing writer One of the hardest mental skills to possess is to stay motivated to practice and compete, day in and day out. Tiger Woods has had this skill since he joined the PGA TOUR in 1996. How does Tiger keep that fire inside him to burn so brightly? One of the main factors is his pursuit of the golden idol: He wants to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors. However, another key ingredient to his amazing motivation is his mastery orientation. Although Tiger wants to be the best in the game, he also relishes improvement. He constantly tinkers with his game in his continually pursuit to get better. Case in point at this week’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship: Tiger worked with Steve Stricker on his putting mechanics (who ironically finished second at the event). Stricker told Tiger to square his stance a bit and weaken his left hand so that the hands would be farther ahead of the clubhead. It worked wonderfully. Woods not only won the tournament, but also had a career-low 100 putts for a PGA TOUR event and rolled in an amazing 27 birdies. Tiger has intuitively hit upon what sports psychology researchers have already discovered. Mastery oriented golfers are more likely to enjoy their sport, be less anxious, be less likely to burn out, and ultimately perform better. Does your fire burn brightly for continual improvement, or are you satisfied with your current scoring ability? If you want to develop a greater mastery orientation in your golf game like Tiger, here are some of my mental game recommendations: 1) Don’t be afraid to get worse before you get better. A lot of golfers are not willing to tinker with their game because it may hurt their scores. Let go of the “score mentality” and develop more of a “learning mentality.” 2) Evaluate your mistakes on the course as learning opportunities. Begin to see your bad shots as a roadmap for what to work on in your next practice session. 3) Let go of your golfing ego. Allow yourself to look a bit foolish when you are a trying a new shot or technique. Don’t worry what your friends will think as they won’t be laughing when they see all your great improvement. Be Like Tiger and enjoy the journey of a continual pursuit of excellence.
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