10 Rules For How To Win Your Major
01 Believe you can win.
I still remember my first major, the 1985 city championship in Charlottesville, Va. Back then I didn't play a lot of golf, but I wanted to see how good the players in my town were. I shot in the 80s and finished third from last. When I got done, I decided to follow the leaders so I could see how my game compared. After watching them for 18 holes, my evaluation was this: They hit it farther than I did. They hit it straighter. Their bunker play was fantastic. And they chipped and putted better. But I left there believing that if those guys could win, so could I. I worked on my game, and over time I got better, including one winter when all I did each day after work was hit bunker shots. Eight years after I first competed, I made a 12-foot putt on 18 to win my city championship.
02 Don't be seduced by results.
How can Trevor Immelman get to the 18th green of the final round of the 2008 Masters and not know where he stands? It's called staying in the present, and it's a philosophy I teach all the players I work with. It means not allowing yourself to be seduced by a score or by winning until you run out of holes. Instead, you get lost in the process of executing each shot and accept the result.
Before Trevor teed off on Sunday with a two-shot lead, he decided he wouldn't look at leader boards. He had a plan: Pick a target, visualize the shot and let it rip. As Trevor walked up the 18th fairway, Brandt Snedeker put his arm around him and nudged him to walk ahead. Trevor told me it was the first time all day he allowed himself to think about the outcome. After marking his ball, he asked his caddie how they were doing. His caddie said he had a three-stroke lead over Tiger. Trevor said he went from being quiet and calm inside to thinking, How can I not five-putt this?
03 Sulking won't get you anything.
The worst thing you can do for your prospects of winning is to get down when things don't go well. If you start feeling sorry for yourself or thinking the golf gods are conspiring against you, you're not focused on the next shot. When Padraig Harrington won the British Open in 2007, he got up and down for a double-bogey 6 on the last hole to make a playoff after knocking two balls into the water. Padraig told me he had a level of acceptance that earlier in his career he didn't have. He said it never entered his mind that he might blow the tournament. His only thought was getting his ball in the hole so he could win the playoff.
04 Beat them with patience.
Every time you have the urge to make an aggressive play, go with the more conservative one. You'll always be OK. In a tournament, the rough is thicker, the pins are tougher, and the greens are faster. The moment you get impatient, bad things happen.
The best example of patience I ever witnessed was Tom Kite at the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Kite had been 0 for 20 in U.S. Opens until then. On Sunday, wind gusts reached 35 miles per hour, but Kite didn't get flustered. On a day when a lot of players didn't break 80, Kite shot even par and won by two. In tough conditions, stay patient and let others beat themselves.
05 Ignore unsolicited swing advice.
Not too long ago, I was working with this player who was struggling. But a couple of strong finishes had him feeling better. At the next tournament he makes, like, eight birdies in the first round. Now he's feeling really good. He stops by the putting green to hit a few, and a player he knows walks up to him and says: "I don't know what you're doing with your putting, but that's not the way you used to set up." A few minutes later another player comes over: "You don't have your eyes over the ball the way you used to." Now my guy doesn't know what to think. He went from making everything he looked at to being a mess the next day.
You'll have lots of well-meaning friends who want to give you advice. Don't accept it. In fact, stop them before they can say a word. Their comments will creep into your mind when you're on the course. If you've worked on your game, commit to the plan and stay confident.