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Tips for performing on the course under pressure

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The United States spent the first two days of the 2012 Ryder Cup coasting in the fourball and foursome matches to claim a 10-6 lead going into the final day.

But Europe staged a miraculous rally Sunday to win 14½ to 13½, and the end result is more evidence of just how special the Ryder Cup is.

The pressure the Americans faced on the back 9 during the Sunday singles matches had to be overwhelming.

On the other side, the Europeans had a different kind of pressure to deal with, as they knew what they had to do and they did it. They quickly turned the tables on the Americans and put the pressure squarely on their shoulders coming down the stretch.

Most of us will never know the pressure Team USA felt Sunday. But if you’ve played golf at any level competitively, or even had the opportunity to beat your playing partner for the first time, then you know what pressure feels like on the golf course.

So how can you stay in control of your game when the heat is on?

Follow these tips to perform well under pressure:

Breathe: You would be amazed at how easy it is to forget to breathe when you start feeling anxious on the course. Short, shallow breaths are nearly as bad as this prevents the proper amount of oxygen from getting into your body. Your brain senses the lack of oxygen and next thing you know you’re freaking out before playing a shot. If you start feeling anxious, take a few slow, deep breathes to completely fill your lungs with air. Hold it in for a few extra seconds then exhale. This will calm your nerves and allow you to perform.

Prepare properly with quality practice: Just like when you take a test, if you study properly you’ll probably do well. Golf is no different. If you’re faced with a downhill, left-to-right, must-make putt on the 18th green to win a tournament and you’ve practiced that same putt over and over, how much easier do you think it will be?

Use nervous energy to your advantage: You will get nervous when the pressure is on, but learning how to use that nervous energy to narrow your focus is what can separate you from your opponents. The simplest way to do this is to focus solely on your desired outcome. See the shot you want to hit, tell yourself you can do it, and then execute. If negative thoughts creep in your mind, start over. Practice thinking properly by eliminating negative thoughts and you will welcome playing under pressure.

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