Watching the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play yesterday sparked my curiosity. As I watched Dustin Johnson battle Brooks Koepka battle for the win, I wondered if either was intimidated by their opponent. Probably not because they are the tops in the world rankings. How about Shamus Power (42) or Corry Conners (35) who are ranked much lower in the standings playing their matches. I would suggest that many professional golfers are less intimidated during any match vice that of an amateur. Amateurs battle many other factors that could easily cause them to be intimidated during competitive matches.
In my earlier years, I was definitely intimidated during many matches. For some reason I would ramp myself up mentally to a point where the first mistake (and a mistake was going to happen) was devastating. Additionally, I would minimize the mistakes of my opponents by telling myself they can easily make a recovery shot that would sink my hole. I was a mess and mentally was defeated before I even teed up my first shot.
As I matured as a golfer, I became mentally stronger. I was intimidated a bit by better players; especially long ball hitters. I would play better, but sometimes I would on some holes when my opponent hit a long ball off the tee. I was getting better mentally, but still needed some work.
About 20 years ago, I seemed to turn a very important corner in my game. My mental game took a leap forward when I purposely ignored my opponent and focus solely on my game. This mental shift freed my mind to actually process what was happening during my round without paralyzing my game.
I have to mention that I was more intimidated during Match Play rounds than Stroke Play. I found that there was less head to head play in stroke tournaments and as such focusing on my own game was easier. Match Play was just the opposite, but that is ancient history now.
Now when I play, I never worry about what my opponent is doing. I do process opportunities during match events much better because I am mentally confident with my game. I have removed much of my emotions during pressure scenarios and rely on my established processes to allow me to work through any challenges.
In my humble opinion, being mentally confident in my game is the only way I was able to eliminate being intimidated on the golf course. It took a bit of time, as my game matured, to shape my mental approach to competitive golf; however it was a journey that most amateurs make on their path to better golf. If you are just starting to play competitive golf and fell yourself intimidate while playing, look to your mental confidence. I believe the answer to your challenges lie in that area.
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!