The difference between winning and losing is work ethic and mental toughness.

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What did we learn from the British Open?

Tom Watson gave all of us that are older than dirt and even a few that are older than rock a warm feeling by his outstanding British Open. Watson is almost 60. He fought back several times and came within inches of winning the tournament in regulation. Granted, he missed a makable putt on the 18th green to fall into a playoff and then struggled in overtime. However, his performance along with that of Greg Norman last year at the British point out 2 very important points. First, the British Open requires a lot more patience than strength and more experience than power. But the most important lesson from the Open is this. Younger players in almost all sports win or lose based on work ethic and mental toughness more often than on talent and athleticism.

In general, the work ethic of the current group of golfers is not nearly what it was in the days of Nicholas, Palmer, and Player. The equipment is much better now. The athleticism is at a higher level than in the 60’s through the 80’s. One reason that Tiger Woods has been able to dominate the golf scene over the last few years is his work ethic and mental toughness against the other top golfers.

Work ethic and mental toughness show themselves in other sports

Those same two qualities show themselves in other sports as well. Check out the off season headlines Tom Brady and Tony Romo. Brady wins playoff games while Romo struggles in key situations including the 4th quarter and playoff games.

In the top 4 Brady headlines are “Tom Brady, Randy Moss go the extra mile to reconnect”, “Tom Brady to Randy Moss A blast from the past”, “Knee surgeon Wins High Praise from Brady”, and “Catch up time with Brady”

How about those about Romo?

From Google we see articles like “Romo says kids should play more than 1 sport‎”, “Tony Romo broke up with Jessica Simpson”, “Tony Romo fires a 69 at American Century Celebrity Golf Tournament”, and “Is John Mayer responsible for Simpson, Romo split?‎” Nothing about football, the Cowboys, or his focus and dedication to win it all in 2009. I think Jerry Jones has a work ethic problem with his QB.

Romo enjoys the celebrity status he gets from football. Tom Brady is too busy trying to win to enjoy his.

Another example of dedication, mental toughness and work ethic is Lance Armstrong. He now is second just 1:36 behind his team mate Alberto Contador. He may value the team result at this point in his life as much as the individual win. He may or may not win the yellow jersey in the end. I think that if the leader was a member of another team, he would win it as much for his team as for himself.

But he has been away for 3 years, battled back from cancer, and is 10 years older than the majority of his competitors. He is still is leading the rest of the pack.

Golf and tennis suffer the most from so many talented players lacking work ethic and mental toughness but it shows up in other sports as well. Roger Federer and the Williams sisters dominate tennis with their minds and focus as much as they do with their physical skills. Don’t expect to see that change any time soon. Work ethic and mental toughness goes a long way to winning in any sport.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits He has also published several novels on and edits .

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5 Responses to “The difference between winning and losing is work ethic and mental toughness.”

  1. CrimeCleaner
    on Jul 21st, 2009
    @ 3:08 pm

    Unfortunately for me, this is the exact reason why I have such a hard time with golf. Sure I can hit the pretty far, high and with descent accuracy. I even drive the ball 300+, but my mental game is lacking. I’m the guy that you’ll see throw his club every once in a while, or rant on about how much I suck. I completely agree that in sports the mental side of things is more important than skill could ever be. Maybe if I can learn to stay patient and keep my cool than other stuff would fall into play, mush like it did for Watson this past weekend. So Close!!!

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  2. Element Search and Win
    on Jul 23rd, 2009
    @ 11:48 am

    I could never play golf, instead I find Basketball and Rubgy more enjoyable.
    .-= Element Search and Win´s last blog ..Element Search and Win updated Thu Jul 23 2009 10:45 am CDT =-.

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  3. Steve
    on Jul 23rd, 2009
    @ 1:17 pm

    Golf is a old man’s game for sure. 😉

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  4. get a payday loan
    on Jul 28th, 2009
    @ 7:05 pm

    There’s a mental edge needed in any sport. Pressure situations always abound whether the games are individual, team, high impact or slow paced. Mental toughness is a must whatever the case.

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  5. Instant Payday Loan
    on Jul 29th, 2009
    @ 10:41 pm

    “The difference between winning and losing is work ethic and mental toughness.” I love that! It’s sooooo true, I hope my boy Tony can pull it off this year and take that quote to heart!

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