The U.S. Open--either the men's or women's version--doesn't test ball-striking as much as it tests resolve.
Players get worn down by the conditions, wind and potential for easy bogies, and they make mental errors. Brittany Lang didn't dominate the statistical categories at CordeValle, except the main one on the leaderboard. She was 40th in fairways hit, 37th in greens in regulation and 40th in driving distance. She made putts when she needed them, and kept calm while Lydia Ko was collapsing and Anna Nordqvist was both shooting a hot round and making the rules mistake that would cost her a chance at the trophy.
Not leaving any space for what-if thoughts to creep in, says says 50 Best Teacher Pia Nilsson, who with Lynn Marriott has worked with Lang at their Scottsdale base. "You hear tour players talk about committing to the shot, but what does that really mean?" says Nilsson. "There are two parts. First, you commit to what you're going to do with the shot--where you're going to aim and how the ball is going to curve and where you want it to go. The next part is committing to the feeling you're going to have as you step in, like your tempo or your grip pressure."
When you think about those things on purpose, says Nilsson, you're giving less room for external thoughts about things like pressure or holding trophies (or, say, rulings) to disrupt what you're doing.
Of course, all of the mental gymnastics in the world won't totally eliminate pressure. "It's easy for the mind to race to the future--good or bad," says Nilsson. "When that starts to happens, sing a song or count your steps to distract your mind and get present. And when you're over the ball, open your mouth slightly or smile. That forces your jaw to relax, which loosens your whole upper body."