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Mindset - Golf

How Collin Morikawa Deals With The Conflicting Emotions Of Victory And Defeat

The RSNG team

Collin Morikawa burst onto the golfing scene with laser iron play and a magnificent short game. Working with a sports mindset management coach is one of the strategies behind his success, as he creates mental resilience to deal with the frustration of defeat, but also handle the expectations that follow victory.

Here, he tells RSNG.com about the benefits of learning to “leave it right behind at the hole.”

Unlocking Your Potential

Collin Morikawa has missed just one cut in major golf – his 2020 appearance at the US Open. This followed a run of 22 successive PGA events of making the cut.

That succession of making the cut is second only to Tiger Woods, who managed three more. In addition, Morikawa has achieved top five finishes in each major, despite being only 25 years old. He has earnt over £20m from the game, less than three years after turning pro.

The LA-born golfer believes his use of sports psychology, and the time spent with Mental Performance Coach Rick Sessinghaus, are the factors that enable him to unlock his true potential.

“I make sure that I learn from anything that has gone before and I try to harness the positives”

“I like to think of myself as someone who doesn’t dwell on a bad shot, a bad hole or even a bad round,” says Morikawa. “Of course, it’s going to happen and of course you’re going to think about it, but you can’t change it, so why let it affect you? Just leave it behind. Leave it right behind at the hole.

Rick is someone who has made me see, more than I possibly could have myself, that if you let negativity creep into your mind, you’ve already lost. So, I make sure that I learn from anything that has gone before and try to harness the positives, but work out what went wrong and try to reduce that happening in the future. It’s all about the next shot – a cliché, I know!”

In an incredible ascent into being one of the game’s top players, Morikawa won his first PGA Tour event at the Barracuda Championship in his home state of California, just seven weeks after making his pro debut at the Canadian Open, in June 2019.

It wasn’t until almost exactly 12 months later – although in a calendar severely truncated by the COVID-19 pandemic – that Morikawa missed his first cut, at the Travelers Championship.

But a fortnight later, he put that behind him by winning the Workday Charity Open and then lifting the PGA Championship at the beginning of August to truly announce himself on the world stage.

“You would think that it’s easier winning than losing, but the more you crave the winning emotion, the harder it can be reacting to not winning”

It’s OK To Be Human

“I’m not a guy who thinks he’s invincible, and I am a human being who is fallible at any time. But when you get in the groove and you feel you’re doing things right, that sense of affirmation is there,” Morikawa says.

“Of course, you feel how fortunate you are to be at the top of your game and winning things and I’m sure many, many other golfers have felt that – maybe in different ways, in their own ways. But you have to use that to your advantage and I think being able to deal with the conflicting emotions of victory and defeat are key to how you can move onto the next tournament.

“You would think that it’s easier winning than losing, but the more you crave the winning emotion, the harder it can be reacting to not winning. In the past I may have let that create a downward spiral in my reading of the challenge, but Rick helps me think relatively and it works.”

Mindset Management

Sessinghaus first met Morikawa as a junior when Morikawa, and his father Blaine, approached him for his services. They had heard of the great sports mindset management work he had achieved with other athletes.

Asking the eight-year-old Morikawa to show him a few practice swings and hitting the ball, Sessinghaus was eager to get to work as soon as possible, seeing the huge potential the boy had. “The advice I’ve had has not just been restricted to the mental side of the sport,” Morikawa says. “From a young age Rick also looked at my swing and was impressed, so became my swing coach too.

“We would be working on the mechanics about once a week and then I would immerse myself in the advice and guidance he was giving me, put it into practice on the course and then give him feedback of what happened. We’ve been able to build that over time.

“I feel that I can take on any challenge or overcome any setback because of what’s been instilled through the work we’ve done together. I am mentally strong.”

Morikawa’s Mantras To Beat Frustration

Like many golfers, Colin Morikawa has identified feelings of frustration as destructive to his game, and has developed the following mental mantras to overcome them; why don’t you try these for yourself?

1. Move On “The past is gone and, in golfing terms, all that really matters is the next hole. I compartmentalize my round so I can draw a line and be my best at the next shot. I can’t carry the baggage of disappointment around with me,” says Morikawa.

2. Be Kind “Championship golf is a battle against other players, but always against myself. If I turn on myself then I am affecting the greatest weapon I have, so being kind to myself and understanding my failings is important if I am going to overcome them and move forward.”

3. Stay Positive “A round of golf takes a long time and there will be ups and downs. I need to remain positive so that I can navigate the challenges, but also so that it remains an enjoyable experience, and that’s important for golfers of all abilities.”

4. Avoid Doubt “Whatever advice I give myself must be clear. When I make a decision I need to have the courage and faith to stick to it.”

WHAT NEXT? Want more insights into mindset management? Then find out how Jordan Speith stayed motivated in his fight back against injury, in this exclusive RSNG.com interview…