How Rory McIlroy Handles Stress

Rory McIlroy hits his tee shot on the second hole during the second round of The Barclays at Ridgewood Country Club on August 22, 2014 in Paramus, New Jersey. Credit: Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images

With three wins in three starts, including two of golf's major championships, PGA superstar Rory McIlroy is having the season of his burgeoning career. He sits atop the world rankings, leads the points in the race for the FedEx Cup, and just shattered Jimmy Fallon in a chipping contest on the Tonight Show. But as he crosses over from the world's hottest golfer to full-blown global celebrity, McIlroy shows few signs of feeling the heat. "I feel pressure is very much self-inflicted," McIlroy said. "You only feel the pressure that you put on yourself." But when he has held himself to the fire, McIlroy's way of handling it: Trigger words. 

When the pressure is on, "I use a couple little trigger words, and that helps me stay in the moment and stay present and not get ahead of myself or focus on the result," he told us at Liberty National Golf Club on Monday at the launch event for Nike's new vapor irons. "I have a couple little words that I use that just help me, instead of me making a huge deal about the certain shot, it's just another golf shot."

The first trigger word McIroy says to himself when approaching a shot on the back nine of a big tournament is process. "So when I think about process, it's the process of making a good decision, visualizing the shot the way I want to and just making a good golf swing, and that's really it," he said.

He uses a similar concept when putting. The word spot serves as a reminder of what he wants to accomplish on the green. "I pick a point maybe two or three inches in front of the ball," McIlroy said. "I just try to roll it over that spot and try to not even think about the outcome or trying to hole a putt because I know if I roll it over my spot, then that's all I can actually — that's all I can do — the rest is just sort of there. If it goes in, it goes in. If it doesn't, then I'll try and hole the next one."

Next time you see McIlroy talking to himself, now you know he hasn't lost his mind, he's just finding his game.