Confident vs. Cocky

tiger-confident-and-cockyWhich camp do you fall in?  When you play your best on the golf course how do you feel, confident or cocky?  Try to align yourself with one of today’s top professionals.  Jason Day is confident.  Henrik Stenson is confident.  Dustin Johnson is surprisingly confident and a little bit humble.  Just look at Rory McIlroy’s gait when he is winning.  Tremendously cocky.  Jordan Speith has transitioned from a cocky youth to confident consummate professional.  When he was at his peak, Tiger Woods was the most cocky AND confident player on the planet.  Now he exhibits neither, which is why I’m skeptical of his comeback attempt.  Phil Mickelson, the ultimate showman, is both.  Bottom line:  To play effectively, you need one or the other.

WARNING ALARM!  I hope this isn’t you.  The last time I played my best, I was neither confident nor cocky but rather surprised.  This is not a good state to be in.  It was probably due to my lower level of preparation and infrequent play.  However, five years ago, I was in an excellent hot streak and exhibited a high level of confidence.  When I play and practice a lot, my confidence rises.  Normally, I’m a 95% confident type, but when the 5% cocky appears, I’ll try some boneheaded shot that I haven’t practiced, which leads to a triple bogey.  Have any of you confident types experienced this?

Our personality leads us to either a confident or cocky on-course persona and it’s best to play to your personality.  Unless your on-course behavior is horrible, when we deviate from our personality is when we screw up.  If you are a gregarious show-off, normally you’ll fall in the cocky camp and need to play as such to be comfortable, but if you’re a more quiet unassuming strategist, you’ll play as a confident type.  This is why it took Phil Mickelson so long to adjust his on course behavior away from taking unnecessary risks that cost him several major championships.  He’s still cocky at heart but has learned to become more of a tactician that always plays with a game plan.   I think fans still love when “Phil The Thrill” comes out, but watch him in the majors and especially at The Masters.  He’ll come out with a confident game plan and rarely deviates.

To be successful, you need one or the other.  To find yours, think back when you were in competition and playing your best (and your worst).  What did you have and what were you missing?  As mentioned earlier, at my best I was supremely confident.  At my worst I had nothing and was completely intimidated.

Confident vs. cocky; what works for you?  Shoot me a comment with your type and a story if you’ve got one.  Play well!

6 thoughts on “Confident vs. Cocky”

  1. Brian

    I am mostly confident, however every once in a while Mr Cocky shows up. I was playing in a match play final and I was 2 up with 4 to go. I was on the middle of the fairway and my opponent was in the cabbage. Feel cocky and confident, I gave him a generous relief. He made an unbelievable shot and halved the hole. He won the match in an extra hole. Instead of playing it smart with the right drop, I empowered my opponent with confidence and it cost me the tournament. Great golf lesson for me, but holy smokes that hurts. So confidence and cocky have a place in golf, but knowing when they apply takes skill.


    1. Jim, great story. It brings up another question about sportsmanship on the course. How much is too much? Were you emulating Jack Nicklaus in the 1969 Ryder Cup match against Tony Jacklin or were you just being yourself? Some would give no quarter when they have their opponent down, as you did.

      Thanks for sharing!


  2. Brian,

    I completely agree. Without one or both of these golf will eat you alive, especially in competition. I don’t think I’ve ever spilled into the cocky category, but I always try hard to maintain my confidence, or even if my confidence is rattled, I still try to appear confident. Unless you’re Tiger in his prime, I think too much cockiness will always eventually bite you in the ass.


    1. Josh,
      Back in the 1980s, I worked as an assistant professional at a country club for a couple years. In my first competition vs my peers, I was neither cocky nor confident. In fact, I was totally out of my element and intimidated, having never played against fellows who were at this skill level. Needless to say, from the first tee shot to the last putt, I got destroyed in our competition, and carry the confidence/cocky lesson with me as a result.

      The problem is, when you don’t have either, you can’t magically make them appear when you need them 🙂

      Thanks for checking in!


    1. Linley,
      You are absolutely right. For years when he was at his peak, Tiger’s cocky approach intimidated many opponents. Those of us watching on television would marvel at the way his opponents would collapse when they merely saw Tiger’s name pop on a leader board. A lot has changed since then, though.



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