Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Rory McIlroy: Real mental toughness from a man in control

Power couple: Rory and girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki
Rory McIlroy celebrates after winning the Honda Classic golf tournament in Palm Beach Gardens
Rory's roots: a framed letter that Rory wrote to the club

From his Masters meltdown in Augusta last April to being ranked World No.1 last weekend, Rory has come a long way.

Aged 22, he’s the second youngest player to reach such heady golfing heights since Tiger Woods climbed to the top when he was 21.

And now, rather than being a player with a reputation for blowing up on the final day, the Holywood star has become the coolest customer on the course.

Dr Gavin Breslin, sports psychologist and lecturer at the University of Ulster, said Rory’s success was built upon ‘The Four C’s’. “Mental toughness is down to elements of confidence, commitment, challenge and control,” he said.

“His confidence has been building up from his previous play so he’s trusting his shots.

“In terms of the commitment, look at his home where he’s got the area out the back where he practises and how much effort he puts in to try and replicate what could come up.

“In other words, he considers the ‘what if’ in that if something out of the ordinary happens then he can actually come back.”

Dr Breslin said that challenge is what differentiates elite players.

“Novices might avoid trying to do something they perceive as too difficult, while someone like Rory would see that as an opportunity to show what he can do,” he said.

However, Dr Breslin added that success hinges on control, which Rory lost in Augusta leading to an agonising collapse despite going into the final round with a four-shot lead.

“He’s not speeding up when he’s putting and he’s making good decisions,” he said.

“He’s staying in control. Without the control component, you struggle with the other three elements.”

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