Expert Opinion

Dealing with the Masters pressure

Sports Psychologist Adrian Schonfeld assesses the mental challenges facing golfers participating in this weekend's Masters tournament at Augusta.

Players attempting to win the Masters this year will face a range of pressures. No doubt this is the tournament to win, but the story of the masters brings an additional set of challenges, just in case playing on the tour isn't hard enough already.

Ultimately, players need to put everything aside and manage to hit the best 280 shots of the week. Even then, those won't be 280 great shots! Players will have to remain mentally strong to not let knowing, that the greens will be lightning fast, create doubt in their mind that will influence their putting stroke. The ability to remain focussed on the task at hand, to make clear decisions and execute their skills consistently close to their potential will greatly enhance the chance of finishing at the top of the field.

Masters rookies, such as 14-year-old Chinese prodigy - Tianlang Guan, will need to learn from every shot rather than becoming overawed by the situation. Those returning will have to manage their memories of previous experiences. Negative memories of holes or rounds when Augusta has chewed them up and spat them out need to be used to provide motivation not trepidation.

History shows that very few players have four rounds under par even when they win. Finishing near the top will mean managing to limit the damage on the days when it doesn't feel great while capitalising on the days when it comes much more easily.  Being able to remember this after a poor start may be key to winning the tournament. At the end of the first day, players need to find some positives, a feeling on one shot or hole, a string of good shots; dwelling on the poor parts of the round is unlikely to enhance the following days play.

From players like Lee Westwood who are still looking for their first Masters victory, to Phil Mickleson and Tiger Woods, who have done it before are all really facing the same challenge. That challenge is one with themselves. The battle to manage your own emotions, thoughts and behaviours. Different players have different internal battles to win but ultimately performance at the highest levels is an internal one.

As for my tip, I'm backing Adam Scott - it's high time an Aussie won!

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