Unique Mental Game Challenges of the US Open


The excitement and drama of the U.S. Open are here as the finest golfers in the world gather to play one of golfs majors and one of its most difficult challenges. The U.S. Open is filled with expectation, excitement and pressure along with a tradition of difficult course conditions. U.S. Open champions are those who withstand the test of golf both physically and mentally.
All the majors elicit their own unique challenges distinct from other tournaments on the schedule. The majors are simply different. Just as the U.S. Open in tennis, the Stanley Cup finals in hockey and the NBA finals in basketball, the U.S. Open golf tournament is different. What sets these events apart? There is a shift in energy, intensity and expectation. This shift becomes palpable and you can feel it in the air as the pressure both internal and external permeates its way through everything. In order to perform their best, it is imperative that golfers not only fine tune their physical game but also prepare their mind and emotions to face, accept and work with this added charge of electricity and expectation. Because of this there are unique mental game challenges that face athletes in this set of circumstances. Below are some of the challenges and the mental game mindsets that go along with them.
The Challenge: Getting Mentally Ready To Play
Mental Mindset: A Gladiator / Warrior Mindset
Because of the higher intensity level of a U.S. Open, a Warrior like mindset is important. This mindset is characterized by a strong sense of courage, persistence, resilience and fearlessness. Champions express these qualities throughout the event and rely on them to prepare, overcome obstacles and boldly move forward to face challenges head on.
The Challenge: Tough Rough
Mental Mindset: Patience
In the U.S. Open golfers tend to shoot higher scores than they are accustomed to. Often times scores of even, plus one or plus two are at or near the top of the leader board. The tough rough, tighter fairways and faster greens and all the other elements inherent in a U.S. Open require a great deal of patience and an understanding that the event is truly a journey with built in natural ebbs and flows. Patience is a must.
The Challenge: The Grind
Mental Mindset: Keeping The Big Picture In Mind
With internal and external pressures at a higher level its easy to get caught up in small increments of time. One poor drive, a missed birdie putt and so on cannot remain on a players mind. It is important to maintain a big picture mindset/perspective throughout the tournament. This prevents golfers from getting too high or too low both of which can interfere with performance. Too narrow a focus on errors or mistakes causes added tension and pressure. Remembering the big picture helps the mind and body open and relax helping players stay focused on now.
Mental Mindset: Sticking to Rituals and Routines
Following daily rituals and routines on and off the course become even more pronounced when external and internal pressures mount. Sticking with routines creates a certain comfort level and helps reduce stress. Routines are important at all times and when pressure mounts they become the solid foundation you can always count on.
The Challenge: Media Distractions / Fan Involvement
Mental Mindset: Employ Stress Reducing Strategies
The U.S. Open elicits higher degrees of stress for many players. The amount of media attention, the event itself and even increased fan involvement (noise, rooting, volume, etc.) can add even more stress. Stress can be both positive and negative. Some stress is good and necessary to keep excited and maintain a certain level of intensity throughout the four days. Other stress creates negative patterns causing players to become too tight which affect rhythm and timing. It is important to have stress reducing strategies to maintain an ideal performance state throughout a round.
The Challenge: Staying Focused
Mental Mindset: Consistently staying In The Moment
Among the pressure, distractions and excitement, it takes a real commitment to stay focused on the goal and not be swayed by all the hoopla surrounding the event. Understanding its a journey with natural ebbs and flows is one key to remain focused in the present moment and ritual routines such as conscious breathing exercises, imagery and meditation help players stay in the moment for extended time periods.
The U.S. Open is a unique physical and mental challenge for all those who participate. These unique challenges are what drive golfers to play their best golf under tough circumstances. Whoever is crowned champion this year will have faced the mental challenge head on and persevered through it all.
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