Thanks to LSU Sports Information Director Bill Martin for tweeting this article from Golf Digest last week on Michael Jordan. Here are a few excerpts, but you can read the entire article written by MJ and Craig Bestrom here.
1. Focus on the little things. During my basketball career, I always told myself to focus on the little things because little things added up to big things. I equate making putts with making free throws, and my biggest mental challenge shooting free throws was in my second year, 1986, when I came back from a foot injury for the playoffs and had a 63-point game against Boston in the Garden. I had to make two free throws to send the game into overtime, and all I focused on was the basics -- I'm not gonna be short. I'm gonna extend and reach for the rim -- all the fundamentals that I had worked on at home and at practice for all those years. Golf is no different. Don't assume, for example, that any putt is good. Make sure you putt every three-footer with conviction.
And keep score every time you play. I do.
2. Have total confidence in what you can do. If you have 100 percent confidence that you can pull off a shot, most of the time you will. I'll never forget the time I was playing with Seve Ballesteros in Valencia [Spain]. It was just a fun round, but very competitive, of course. Seve misses a green, and his ball ends up right up against a tree. He has absolutely no backswing, and I'm thinking he's out of the hole. Next thing I know, Seve's on his knees with some kind of iron in his hands, and he's choking down all the way to the hosel. He chips this thing, and it bounces onto the green to a few feet, and he makes par. Unbelievable!
3. Don't think about the prize; think about the work. At my basketball camps every year, I award the kids shoes if they make a certain number of free throws or if they complete an around-the-world or something like that. But I always tell them that if they're thinking about the prize, they should be thinking about the work. Prepare, practice and perfect it. Do the work, and the prizes will come.
4. Keep it simple. There are a lot of correlations between basketball and golf, especially on the mental side. Whenever I played a big game, I tried to stick to things I knew I was capable of doing. I do the same in golf. I've seen Tiger hit that stinger, and I know it's doable for me, too, but it isn't a shot I've practiced much. Why would I try that in the heat of the moment?
5. Control your emotions until the round is over. Celebrating during a round can be a good thing if it inspires you to keep doing great things. But be careful not to overdo it. Sometimes, celebrating too much adds pressure and makes you feel like you've got to live up to it the rest of the round. Worse, your celebrating can motivate your opponent. My enjoyment doesn't come until the round is over. Most of the time, anyway.
6. Use tough losses for motivation. Turning negatives into positives has always worked for me. I think back to when I was cut from my high school basketball team as a sophomore. That was the biggest disappointment of my sports career, but it only made me work harder.
7. Competitors always want to have something riding on the outcome. It isn't the amount of money, it's something to keep the focus at its highest. Whenever I meet people, they always have this idea that I like to play for big money. My line is always: I play for whatever makes you nervous. That's enough to give me a competitive edge. It could be five dollars. It could be 10. It could be a shirt in the pro shop. It doesn't have to be for $500,000 or a million. Sometimes it might be enough if we're just playing for pride.
8. I love trash-talking, and there's an art to turning it into a competitive edge. Trash-talking is a means of (1) giving you confidence, and (2) taking your opponent's mind off what he's trying to do and putting a little more pressure on him. I don't talk trash to demean people.
I don't talk about their parents or any of that. But I do love talking trash no matter who I'm playing. President Clinton is the only U.S. president I've played golf with, and I talked trash with him, too. Why wouldn't I? Talking trash, especially with someone like that, is giving him a better understanding of who I am. He wants to experience what it feels like to hang out with Michael Jordan, and that's me.
I enjoy moments like that. I love competitiveness. So why would I do anything less?
9. Nervousness is not a bad thing. I was nervous a lot of times before games. The key is, does that nervousness go away once the ball is thrown up because of your preparation and your routine. Once the game got started, I was back in my routine.
Golf can work the same way if you put in the work to prepare. Yeah, you're going to be nervous on the first tee, but all it takes is one good shot, and that nervousness goes away.
10. Learn from Tiger's competitiveness. We'll never really know which of the two of us is more competitive.
He plays golf, and I played basketball. But he'll do anything to beat you.
One day we were playing with a friend of mine, Jacob Brumfield. He played pro baseball [with four major-league teams] in the '90s. Jacob was so trash-talking Tiger that when we got to the 18th hole, Tiger told him he'd play every shot on that hole from his knees and Jacob could play normal. Now that is confidence. That's the kind of stuff I'd do in basketball.