Woods and pressure

Woods and pressure

I told you a few months ago that McGraw-Hill had acquired the publishing rights to my latest book, Thriving on Pressure. I am delighted to inform you that the book will be available from mid-August and can be pre-ordered on Amazon right now. You will see on the home page of this website that the book has a different cover and a slightly different title. I have also added another 20 pages or so to the original book.

My publicist at McGraw-Hill asked me to write a piece for media circulation in anticipation of the book’s launch, tying it into some recent or upcoming sports event. My thoughts immediately turned to events in golf’s three Majors to date in 2010.

Following the relative predictability of a big name winner, Phil Mickelson, at the Masters in April, the British and US Opens have thrown up a couple of surprise winners by the names of Louis Oosthuizen and Graeme MacDowell respectively. Surprising because they were won by relative unknowns when it comes to winning at this level. And also surprising because they performed so well under the inevitable fierce pressure that is so visible in these tournaments.

MacDowell held his nerve when his playing partner, and leader going into the final round, clearly found the pressure too much. Poor Dustin Johnson. Nobody but the harshest sports fan could have failed to feel sorry for a young golfer who visibly disintegrated in the first few holes of that final round. The emotion also got the better of one TV commentator who mistakenly referred to him as Dustin Hoffman as the golfer’s implosion became clear to the watching world.

Johnson, MacDowell, and Oosthuizen, are clear examples of how pressure can either help or hinder performance. And as the 2010 PGA Championship is fast-looming, all eyes will again turn to Tiger Woods who has shown signs of returning to his former glory, but has fallen short on the final day so far this year.

I have a theory about Woods and pressure. It’s based on the fact that he has only ever won Majors when he has been leading going into the final round. This is a clear sign of loving and thriving on the pressure of being at the top of the leader board. This is where Woods has total control and can enjoy himself.

However, watch Woods when he goes into the final round a few shots off the lead and he’s never won. I believe this is because he tries too hard and is negatively affected by the pressure – it becomes stress. You can see it in his face. He is no longer in total control and compensates by trying harder – too hard! His need to claw back the lead as quickly as possible often leads to dropped shots early in the round so that he is playing catch-up, and you are able to observe his anxiety and frustration increase as the holes pass slowly by.

So Woods may not be as mentally tough as we think! Now isn’t that controversial? It would be great to hear your own thoughts.

Share Your Thoughts!