Is Sport Psychology Behind How Rory McIlroy Flipped Out?
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Is Sport Psychology Behind How Rory McIlroy Flipped Out?

Published by: Deborah Dubree (5)
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What was the switch that flipped in Rory McIlroy between his heart-breaking loss during the final round at The Masters and his incredible record-breaking championship win at the US Open? We want to know and he’s not sharing.

Who didn’t feel sick watching this extraordinary young man fall apart during his final round at Augusta. Our hearts ached and our skepticism grew. What’s going to happen to him? Will he be okay? How can anyone bounce back from that? Rory is every mother’s son. He’s the son father’s feel proud to share moments with. Rory’s is barely 22 and we had just experienced his childhood dream being ripped out of his hands and into the headlines.

So how did Rory make such a dramatic change and come back with a sweet vengeance? This was a sweet passionate revenge that had little to do with technical ability. (You were highly talented and technically skilled at Augusta.) Between Augusta and the US Open, what did you do to settle your mental and emotional score and take back control?

Here’s my take – Rory flipped out! He flipped out of the upheaval, hype and beliefs that could have lingered and festered for months. He flipped into knowing how to tame and train his B.E.A.S.T. ™ As a sport psychology and ELITE Performance Expert, I train my pro and aspiring pro athletes exactly and specifically how to do just that.

The BEAST I’m referring to consists of fear, frustration, anxiety, stress, crappy thoughts and false beliefs. It is the lack of a pre-determined personal playbook to manage your mind and emotions on demand, at critical moments and under extreme pressure.

Left unmanaged you get results like Augusta. All your skills, talents and training are eaten up as the BEAST takes a bite out of your performance, your career and sometimes even your legacy. When you tame and train your BEAST you get results like the US Open! Rory – Rory – Rory!

Here’s what I notice watching Rory’s spectacular performance on Sunday.

B in BEAST represents your Beliefs. Rory could have easily bought into the hype that his performance at the Master’s should fester and grow. That bouncing back after such a devastating loss takes time. He could have easily created an excuse that he’s young and he’s not expected to win a major at his young age. Or that he crumbles during final rounds. Any or all of these beliefs would have brought about much different results at the Open.

Beliefs are sneaky and extremely powerful. Here is a scary and also useful fact. We act according to what we believe and what we believe may not actually be true! What you believe about yourself, the situation, your clubs, the ball you use, the course or hole has a powerful influence on your performance … and you may not even be aware of the underlying sneaky belief that is waiting to take you down.

Though you may not be aware of the underlying belief, you are painfully aware of are the results they produce. Rory saw the results of his beliefs at Augusta. Sometime between Augusta and the US Open he recognized, reframed and re-enforced a new belief. A belief he chose. What we all witnessed was the result of his new belief during a several exhilarating days of play at the Open.

E is for your Emotions. Emotions don’t care how talented, technically skilled or smart you are. They don’t care if you’re a rookie or a seasoned player. They rear their ugly hear at the most critical moments and create extreme pressure. They partner with fear, frustration, anger and anxiety. Even the best can lash out or lash in. Case in point is HenrikStenson on the 15th hole of the final round. He smashed his club into the ground, broke the shaft and cut his hand. Beside that he just looked childish with his caddie attempting to bandage him up. Every golfer is going to miss at some point. It’s how you deal with those misses that makes all the difference.

When you are stressed you literally can’t think straight. Your muscles tense up and your performance suffers. With heart pounding, palms sweating and your mind fogging up, you can kiss your score good-bye. You can go from hero to zero in a heartbeat.

Rory learned from his implode at Augusta. At the Open, did you notice how he truly enjoyed every moment? He was taking one day, one hole and one stroke at a time. He conserved his energy, relaxed and ensured his resilience. He stayed loose and grounded. Then there were the congratulatory hand slaps with his caddie, even laughing out loud at times. That boyish smile came out as he walked from hole to hole. Small hand gestures of acknowledgement and appreciation to the gallery added to his feelings of joy and gratitude. He still stayed focused while he gave himself permission to be happy. This is a ‘state of emotion’ that kept his mind clear and his body responding to his every wish. It also creates confidence, trust and the ability to commit to his shots.

A in BEAST is for the 5-A’s

This is a ClearEDGE Method™ to stay focused on results so can play at your competitive best consistently and outplay your competition. Great golfers would never think about entering into a tournament without a plan. They know how they are going to play the course as well as each individual hole. Every aspect of their game and equipment is analyzed and scrutinized. So why would you ever think of going into something so important without a pre-determined plan on how exactly and specifically you will stay focused when you are ticked off, upset and completely frustrated? A plan allows you to quickly recover and move to a state of confidence, clarity and consistency.

The 5-A’s are: You stay Aware of what you want and what’s getting in your way. Apply the techniques out of your personalized playbook to quickly and effectively change your state to a state of optimal performance. Then you can Act with the trust, confidence and commitment it takes to make a great shot. Once the shot is complete you easily Assess and Adjust from an observer’s point of view. No judgment, just the facts. It allows you the opportunity to step back and review what just happened and then adjust as needed. Be sure to always Anchor in what you did right. Remember to include your emotions of joy, gratitude, appreciation or similar. Your emotions are the glue that anchors your great performance into your memory.

Time after time Rory seemed to be acutely aware of everything happening in and around him. He backed off the ball if necessary to reframe his thoughts and feelings by applying a new sense of confidence and trust. He truly was in the ZONE when he acted with commitment to his shot and stepped back into the ball. Each and every shot he assessed his position and adjusted to the conditions. His emotions were raw and real after every shot. That joy, laugher and gratitude are what I can the “Party-in-Your Head” where you celebrate your performance shot by shot. He anchored in a pattern of success.

S is the all-importantSELF-identity which is matching what you say you want with your true beliefs and then follow it up with your behaviors. It is one of the best ways to stay motivated and leverage your strengths. Your SELF-identity is the foundation for every decision you make and action you take. What is important to remember is that you cannot outperform your SELF-identity. I believe that when Tiger Woods figures this out he’ll be back.

Rory changed his SELF-identity. By learning more about himself he was better able to distinguish what was important to him, what wasn’t important and what he was willing to commit to. It helped him stay focused on what’s important and disregard the rest.

His trip to Haiti surely gave him a new perspective on life. Daily breakfast with his dad helped him stay grounded and stable. Conversations and mentoring from the great Jack Nicklaus gave him perspective. Staying connected with family and friends back home helped him ‘keep it real’ and know that no matter what, he has love in his life. Watching movies on his computer until late at night gave him the opportunity to sleep in and have less wait time the next day. All of it combined came from truly knowing who he is as a man and what nourishes his soul, powers up his game, keeps him feeling calm and confident under extreme pressure and how to leverage what makes him uniquely Rory. He’s now playing up to a new SELF-identity.

T = Talk and Walk It includes your verbal and non-verbal skills. Your body language, your words and your thoughts.

Here is another impressive aspect of Rory’s game at the US Open. When he walked from one shot to the next his head was up and he walked with conviction. He stepped with a consistent speed that was strong and purposeful. On the 18th hole of the final round Rory not only had his head was up, his hat came off and he gave himself permission to take it all in. He allowed himself to enjoy every moment and still stayed focused on that final shot. Throughout the day his entire body helped feed his confidence and conviction.

Standing on the tee after his drives and during his walk between holes Rory could be seen talking to his caddie. He shared his thoughts and celebrated his victories. I’m guessing he believed what he said and said what he believed, both in his thoughts and his conversations. Honest and straight-forward talk – just like his answers during interviews.

Rory’s secret weapon … he flipped out of what could have been a long hard road back to confidence and into learning how to tame and train his B.E.A.S.T. ™

What else can we look forward to? Rory is on the launch pad of an extraordinary career and legacy. I will be one of millions who will watch and cheer his every step. Rory, Rory, Rory!!

If you are ready to begin to Tame and Train your B.E.A.S.T. like Rory did, contact Deborah for more information on the ClearEDGE Method email

Deborah Dubree - About the Author:
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