In becoming the first Briton in more than 40 years to win the U.S. Open, Justin Rose on Sunday, June 16, also became the second student of Dr. Gio Valiante to bring home a high-profile PGA Tour championship this month. On June 2, Matt Kuchar won the Memorial Tournament, his second Tour victory of the year. Valiante’s acclaimed new book, Golf Flow, was released in the spring of 2013 and features the methods and strategies he uses with six of his PGA golfers, including Rose and Kuchar, ranked third and fifth, respectively, in the new World Golf Rankings (as of Monday, June 17).
“On Sunday at the U.S. Open, Justin was in the exact type of flow state that I write about in Golf Flow,” Valiante says. “In his winning press conference, he referenced the exact processes and methods I teach in the book.”
Valiante, named by Golf Digest as the #2 sport psychologist in America, began working with Rose in 2010, and says that Rose evolved from simply thinking like a mastery golfer to thinking and behaving like one on the golf course. “As with Matt Kuchar’s experience in 2009, Justin’s relatively poor result at the BMW Championship was a key turning point,” Valiante reveals. “It provided him an opportunity to avoid letting himself be defined by his results and instead to practice the habit of mastery golf, that is, to immerse himself in learning from an experience rather than reacting to it.”
Valiante says that something remarkable happened after the BMW Championship in 2010 when he began working with Rose—for the first time since he was a teenager, Rose reacted to a poor finish with the mind-set of a mastery golfer rather than an ego golfer. Rather than being embarrassed, angry, or frustrated by a poor result, he approached the following week at the Memorial energized, excited, and eager to play with a mastery mind-set. And after spending the better part of nine years on the PGA Tour as an also-ran, he ended up winning that tournament for his first Tour win, despite trailing by four shots heading into the final round. Valiante credits Rose for playing smart, strategic golf in which he never broke his routine or took a risk.
A later win in the 2010 season further demonstrated Valiante’s impact on Rose’s game, specifically his ability to leave the past behind and recognize that the nature of golf is such that you can have a poor result without doing a lot wrong. “This is effective thinking perfected,” Valiante explains. “Justin did not brood or overthink or panic. He simply accepted the inherent variability and randomness of the game and determined to keep pressing forward with freedom and enthusiasm. By staying out of his own way, Justin let his good play continue.”
Not only is he one of the most prominent sport psychologists in the world, Dr. Gio Valiante has become the winningest sport psychologist on the PGA Tour over the past decade. Named in 2011 as one of Golf Magazine’s 40 most influential people in golf under age 40, he has worked with many of the game’s top players, besides Rose and Kuchar, including Camilo Villegas, Sean O’Hair, Jack Nicklaus, Davis Love III, and Alexis Thompson.
As the former Golf Channel “Guru of the Year,” Valiante brings his expertise to Golf Flow, a book written for every golfer who understands the way you think shapes the way you play. The key, he teaches, is to approach the game in a positive worry-free state in which the sole focus is to master the moment, enjoy the process, and focus on playing freely and fearlessly. Valiante offers cues for staying in the moment, simple steps for overcoming adversity, and reminders for maintaining the all-important mastery orientation that thrives when a golfer’s skills match the challenge at hand.
Valiante, who serves as the mental game consultant for the Golf Channel, Golf Digest, and the University of Florida, is a professor at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where he also lives. Previously featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and ESPN’s “First Take,” among other places, his previous book, Fearless Golf: Conquering the Mental Game (Doubleday/Golf Digest, 2005), is considered a standard in golf psychology.