10 Tips To Win Your Big Event

Ten tips that will help you handle the pressure of an important tournament


Get your driver in shape

Get your driver in shape
If you plan on contending, you've got to be able to hit it long and straight off the tee, under pressure. According to Golf Digest Teaching Professional David Leadbetter, "Your driver is the most important club in the bag (except maybe your putter) because it sets up so many shots." If you don't have the big stick under control, your confidence in the rest of your game will inevitably decline. Work on hitting the longest club in your bag well. If you can, all of the other clubs in your bag can't be too far off.

More: How to take it from the range to the course


Learn where not to go

Learn where not to go
Many golfers treat a practice round like it's the first round of the actual event, lining up tap-ins and stressing over bad shots. But a practice round is a time to experience the course's many challenges so you avoid these troublesome areas during your competitive rounds. Take the time to hit lots of shots around the greens and to test out some slippery putts. And be sure to take lots of notes. You'd be surprised at how quickly you'll forget a green is two-tiered, even if you play the course just a week in advance.

More: Phil Mickelson's practice rounds


Eat right and stay hydrated

Eat right and stay hydrated
Don't underestimate the power of nutrition. Complex carbs and protein before the round will help regulate your blood sugar levels, which will keep you even-keeled and prevent energy spikes during your round. During the round, light snacks such as nuts, fruit and turkey jerky will keep you alert and reduce fatigue. Be sure to avoid simple carbs and products with any added sugar. As for hydration, stick with water. Try to consume 16-ounces of water per hour, including plenty before the round on hot days. Avoid sports drinks, fruit juices and soda, or else your scores will trend in the same direction as your blood sugar.

More: What to eat on the course

Before a big event, figure out how much time you're going to want at the course beforehand. Always assume your starting time is earlier than it actually is, since you'll have to be on the tee with at least ten minutes ahead of time. If you're going off early, allow for enough time to eat a full breakfast and to beat the traffic. You're not going to want to rush, but you also don't want to psych yourself out with three buckets of balls on the range, either. Figure out what you need and stick to it, and don't forget to check in.

Work on only short and long putts

This game is all about the three-footer, so when you're warming up, forget the mid-range putts. Practice short ones to get your confidence up, and long ones to get the speed of the greens down. U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy says he spends 95 percent of his putting-practice time from inside eight feet. "I pick short putts that break and hit them in different ways" -- some soft, some firm. "After a while, this helps me get a sense of which approach works best for the kind of greens I'm playing that day. If you pay attention, you'll save yourself from a few lipouts."

More: Geoff Ogilvy's feel tips


Treat it like a normal round

It's easy to forget, but golf is always just golf, regardless of the circumstances. The ball is either going to go in the hole, or it's not -- but it certainly will find the bottom of the hole quicker if you don't blow the consequences of the round out of proportion. Patrick Cantlay says that whether he's playing a round with his buddies or in the U.S. Open, "it's all the same." "You're just trying to get the ball in the hole with the fewest number of strokes possible. So treat as many aspects of the round as you can like you normally would."

More: Patrick Cantlay's checklist


Expect to be nervous

Even if you accept the fact that it's just golf, you're going to be nervous, so embrace it. Your score will be posted for all to see, and there may even be spectators watching, but just remember: Nobody cares what you shoot. Find solace in the fact that your starting hole can't possibly be as intimidating as Patrick Cantlay's was at 2011 U.S. Open, Congressional's 218-yard (No. 10) over water. "I remember shaking a little," says Cantlay, "but I just went through my normal pre-shot routine and pulled the trigger." There is one surefire way to calm your nerves -- experience. "The more tournament rounds you play, everything improves: your distance control, focus and comfort level."

More: Patrick Cantlay's checklist

Renowned sports psychologist Bob Rotella instructs all of his players to follow a mental and physical routine on every shot. Why? "It keeps you focused on what you have to do, and when the pressure is on, it helps you manage your nerves." Rotella says, "It's easy to build a tournament into something so huge that you can't play," and a reliable pre-shot routine is the best way to combat this psychological issue. So when you're playing in your next tournament, be sure to pick your target and complete your waggles, but once you finish your routine, let it go.

More: Bob Rotella's 10 rules


Don't be seduced by results

Worrying about consequences is the kiss-of-death for anyone's golf game -- a troubled mind prevents the muscles from performing freely and effectively. Bob Rotella implores all of his students to stay in the present. "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." This is what allowed Trevor Immelman to get to the 18th green of the final round of the 2008 Masters and not know where he stood -- and the tournament turned out pretty well for him.

More: Bob Rotella's 10 Rules

Remember the TV Show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"? Much of the participants' success was due to their ability to phone a friend or ask the audience for advice. In much the same way, you can get help on your golf game, from yourself. The time to ponder your swing is not when you are struggling, but rather when you are playing your best. Write down keys and swing thoughts that work for you when you are striping it, and return to those notes when your game goes awry. You'll become a better player for it.

More: How to play in an outing