The Ryder Cup: Facts and Emotion

Two historical events took place at The Country Club, the home of the 1999 Ryder Cup. First, the Americans made a comeback of historical proportions. Second, it marked the change of golf from a gentleman's game into a spectator's sport when decorum broke down with Justin Leonard's winning putt on the 17th hole.

After Leonard made his 45-foot putt, most of the American players, caddies and some officials stormed the green to embrace him while the spectators cheered riotously. As unfortunate as that was to the reputation of golf being a gentleman's sport, it was nothing more than a fact. All of your thoughts have two components: fact and emotion.

Facts are merely facts. However, we attach emotions to those facts. Facts remain facts, but emotions cause changes in your brain's chemistry and affect your performance. Jose Maria Olazabal still had a 25-foot putt that could change the outcome. Since I was not in Jose's head, all I can do is speculate about the emotions he attached to the facts he was facing.

One, he had enormous pressure to make the putt. It is hard not to imagine that he attached some degree of fear of not being able to deliver. Next, he had to deal with the fact of the wild American celebration. It is even harder to imagine that he did not attach some anger to that fact. Jose faced two facts; one with fear and the other with anger attached to them. These negative emotions have a negative affect on the brain's chemistry that in turn affects all of your bodily functions. Granted a 25-foot putt is hard enough to make with a calm emotional state, but fear and anger greatly diminished Jose's chance of making that putt.

To win on tour you must be able to block out your negative emotional responses to the facts you encounter while playing golf. A professional has no excuse to allow facts to upset his mental state and affect his ability to perform. With golf becoming a spectator's sport this is a fact that golfers are going to have to learn to live with.

On the other hand Colin Montgomerie, who was heckled throughout the tournament, was able to deal with the heckling as a fact of life for him. Instead of attaching anger to the fact of being heckled, he was able to transfer that negative emotion into determination to show the crowd up by playing at his best. As a matter of fact, Colin probably would have been upset if the crowd wasn't heckling him. He loved showing the crowd that their heckling only made him play better. His positive emotional response to being heckled improved his chemistry and allowed him to play at his best.

This makes one wonder what the outcome of the Ryder Cup would have been, if it were Colin Montgomerie who was facing that 25-putt instead of Jose Maria Olazabal.

P.S.: Do you feel nervous on the first tee? Do you feel under pressure sometimes when putting to win? Are shots over water a problem for you? Then this problem can be a mental one. Here is a program that I can recommend to help you overcome it: The mental side of golf

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