mental game

Expert explains what you can learn from the 'reset' that helped Nelly Korda to her 10th win


Orlando Ramirez

March 26, 2024

Nelly Korda had the Fir Hills SeRi Pak Championship all but won. She just needed to play the last two holes in one-over. Instead, she went bogey-bogey, and found herself in a playoff with Ryann O’Toole. In a matter of minutes, she was able to shift the frustration from her finish into a positive mindset. From there, she won the playoff.

Here’s how she did it.

A quick venting session

After signing her scorecard, Korda went to the putting green and chatted with her coach, Jamie Mulligan.

“I vented to my coach on the putting green and then he asked me if I'm ready to be positive. Took a little bit and then I was ready,” Korda said. “It's nice to kind of let it out and to refocus again.”


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When she refocused, she changed her thoughts from replaying the bogeys, to looking at the playoff as a clean slate: “We're both starting at even and we're playing head-to-head. Best one wins,” Korda said.

Two key things happened here to get Korda to go from someone who was venting about two bad holes into someone able to win a playoff.

  • First, she let herself feel frustrated.
  • Second, her coach cued her to leave the negative thoughts behind.

“We call it the Stockton Rule because Dave Stockton liked it: You get two seconds to react,” Dr. Deborah Graham, sports psychologist to many tour pros, including Freddie Couples, says.

The bogey, or the three putt, or the pulled shot O.B. happened, and you can feel bad about it, but you can only feel bad about it for a short amount of time. You need to then shift your thinking before your next shot. That’s the part that can be really difficult. Korda had the benefit of having her coach there with her, telling her it was time to change her focus. Average players obviously don’t have that luxury when they’re out playing.

The four-question reset


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So, to get yourself to snap out of your spiral of negative shots, Dr. Graham says to ask yourself four questions after a bad shot:

  1. How was my tempo?
  2. Was I committed to the club, target or shape of the shot?
  3. Did I stop and fully visualize the shot I wanted to hit?
  4. Did I have a simple feel thought, Smooth back smooth through?

Going through this exercise engages the right brain, Dr. Graham explains. The left brain is the analytical side, and to be ready to make an athletic move like a golf swing, Dr. Graham says you want the creative, right brain, working.

“You need to have the right brain engaged when you hit the next shot, otherwise your mind’s going to wander off to score, outcome, mechanics, things that you really can’t control,” Dr. Graham explains.

You don’t have a coach nearby to help you think through disappointing shots on the golf course, but you can help yourself. Allow yourself a moment to feel aggravated, and then start asking yourself Dr. Graham’s four questions. You’ll be in a different headspace by the time you’re standing over your next shot, and more ready to make it a good one.