What would you have been thinking? J.P. Hayes's ball was on a
razor-tight lie, 20 yards from a pin cut just beyond a gaping
bunker on the penultimate hole of the John Deere Classic
(above). Yes, J.P. was 21 under with a four-shot lead, so he had
some good vibes. But he's also a 37-year-old grinder who before
last week had only one Tour victory, so his mind must have been
racing and his heart thumping. Fortunately, J.P. is much more
decisive and confident than he was in the mid-1990s when he was
barely eking out a living and I gave him a couple of lessons.
Without hesitation he addressed the ball, pitched to three feet
and made birdie, clinching a resounding victory.
ROOM TO IMPROVE In 14 years as a pro J.P. has slowly risen from a
golfing nobody to a fringe player to a multiple winner, but he
won't make the ascension to the Tour elite unless he upgrades his
vision of himself. When a reporter asked if during the final
round he had doubts about winning, J.P. said, "Oh, yeah, a lot."
The best players may struggle at times, but they never stop
believing in themselves.
PRIZEFIGHTERS The best pros are supertough mentally, but they
battle the same insecurities that players like J.P. must
overcome. In the early '90s I worked with Nick Faldo, and I'll
never forget a practice-tee scene at the Honda Classic, an hour
before Nick's first round of the season. I was leading Nick
through a drill in which he was supposed to swing a driver extra
slowly, but Nick couldn't do it. He was shaking, his eyes were
filled with fear, and he was swinging so fast he was out of
control. What made Nick such a great champion was that through
the years he had learned how to rein in his emotions, and by the
time he arrived at the 1st tee, he had regained his composure.
ON THE BALL Annika Sorenstam's 12 top-three finishes in 14 starts
isn't the most impressive feat I've seen from her this year. We
both live at Lake Nona Golf Club in Orlando and share the same
trainer, Kai Fusser, who teaches his clients to swing while
standing on a huge medicine ball. After several months of trying,
I can barely kneel on the ball and take a tiny punch swing. This
winter, Annika learned to stand tall and take full swings as
casually as if she were on Nona's 1st tee.
ANGER MANAGEMENT Lanny Wadkins was impressive last week in his
debut as CBS's lead analyst. I had thought he would be more
high-strung and opinionated on TV than Johnny Miller, based on
what I saw in Lanny as a famously hotheaded player. But he was
surprisingly objective and stuck to reporting the facts with a
minimum of personal observations, though he did uncork a few
cracks about Pat Perez's tantrums over the last few holes.
Patti McGowan runs the Knack 4 Golf school at Lake Nona Golf Club
in Orlando and is one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 teachers.
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF CBS (TOP)
COLOR PHOTO: PORTER BINKS
Golf requires mental discipline. Decide what you want--whether
it's to break 100 or to win 19 majors--and continually envision
yourself achieving that goal. Champions hit great shots a
million times in their heads before doing so in real life. On
the course, never address the ball until you picture a good
result. I often step off the ball and make myself replace bad
thoughts with good ones. Here are some negative thoughts you
might have over a pitch, and better ones to replace them.
"UH-OH, that pin is cut really tight."
"IF I GET UP AND DOWN, I'll beat my old scoring record."
"MAN, I HOPE I DON'T SKULL IT into the bunker."
"JUST DON'T BLOW it over the green."
"O.K., IDIOT. Yesterday we chunked a shot like this."
"LET THE WEIGHT of the club's sole pop the ball in the air."
"AT ADDRESS, sit like a butterfly."
"FEEL LIKE the butt of the club connects to the belly button."
"THE BALL RISES like a balloon and falls like a parachute."
"WEIGHT FORWARD. Weak grip. Hit down on the ball."