Performance Excellence Center & Dr. Eddie O'Connor
April 2011
What happened to Rory McIlroy?
Choking at the 2011 Masters 


"For 63 holes in this golf tournament, I was leading and just a couple of bad holes on the back nine just sort of derailed me," McIlroy was quoted about his Master's performance in USA Today.


McIlroy back nine


Choking occurs when someone performs less than their skill level suggests they should. This happens with a shift in focus from the task at hand to internal distractions such as negative thoughts or anxious feelings. Perhaps he got ahead of himself on the tenth hole when he hit between the cottages. Maybe he felt the pressure of the competitive round, Tiger's charge and so many others performing well. "When you're hearing roars, you pretty much knew what was going on," he admitted.


Rory triple bogeyed the 10th, and based on his quote above it sounds like he got caught up in his mistakes. I imagine his focus was no longer on his swing - but on his score, the competition, and his failure.


So how do you prevent choking? SLOW DOWN! At the first sign of anxiety (rapid heart rate, thoughts speeding up, tension) take a deep belly breath. In through the nose for 5. Hold for a second. Out through the mouth for 7. Listen to the exhale. Drop your shoulders on counts "6-7." Do it again if you have to. Then again until your mind is clear and you feel back in control.


Yellow means caution!


Think of the early signs of tension as a yellow light. Unlike when you are driving you don't want to speed up through it (although that is what you will feel like doing - trying harder). Yellow means "caution." You are starting to lose control. Slow down. Breathe until you get back to a green light (focused on the here and now and relaxed) and then go... Rory ran the red light! To his credit, he owned his performance and his failure. And it is that kind of accountability I believe will have him ultimately succeed.


If you try to perform physically when your mind or emotions are out of control - you are setting yourself up to fail. Use your breath to stay in control and play your best.


For more on how to refocus after mistakes - check out the services I offer to athletes and teams on the right side panel.

Have Just a Few Specific Questions?


Get a teammate or two and share a Q&A session to get practical answers to common performance problems. A cost-effective alternative to more intense mental training when just a few tips or guidelines are needed. Call 233-3480 for details. 

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Dr. Eddie In the Media


Featured (and guest hosting) The One Seven on FOX-17


Tips for the River Bank Run


Healthy Eating


Help for Chronic Pain


Handling Things You Can't Control


What Your Super Power Choice Says About You 


Dr. Eddie's Video Tips


More tips and interviews


Individual Consults
Dr. Eddie works with athletes one on one to get you out of your slump or bring your play up to the next level.
It starts with a 90-minute assessment including a measurement of current mental skills strengths and weaknesses.
Team Workshops
Have Dr. Eddie come to your school or practice facility and train your players in mental toughness.
Presentations are always engaging and active. Athletes, coaches and parents will leave the workshop with specific, practical skills they can use at the next practice or game to improve their performance.
Workshops can teach general metal toughness skills or focus specifically on an issue the team is struggling with (e.g., confidence, team chemistry). Workshops for coaches (e.g., "Get the Most Out of Your Athletes") and parents (e.g., "Successful Sport Parenting") are also available.
Not in Grand Rapids?
Dr. Eddie consults with athletes and teams via Skype or phone when travel prevents in person meetings.
Run with a Sport Psychologist
Join Dr. Eddie for a 40-min run at Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids and talk about whatever is on your mind. A great stress management tool: physical exercise AND practical advice on life's daily hassles. What will you talk about? Work, kids, spouse, weight loss, motivation, training? It is up to you.
Call 616.233.3480 today!