Michelle Wie: On taking responsibility for your play

My problem this evening was that I had an abundance of riches. There was some really fine play from some really fine players on Friday at the CME Group Tour Championship, the hour was late and I had an unusually attractive number of player transcripts to get through.

The ladies did their best to attack the Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida, in some challenging wind conditions and a potpourri of players had a good day.

For example, Julieta Granada who led the tournament by two yesterday, hung in there today with a 1-under round to stay tied for the lead. She was joined by Carlota Ciganda, the long hitting Spaniard, who fired an impressive 67. Ciganda was the dark horse addition to the 2013 Solheim Cup who was hitting it all over the lot, took forever to work through a relief situation and then went on to win her singles match against Morgan Pressel 4&2, winning all three of her matches.

Granada spoke about her lower ball flight being perfect for playing in the wind, her work with Sean Foley over the last four years and her working relationship with her caddie mother. Ciganda talked about playing with Jose Marie Olazabal after she called him for a putting tip and how she enjoys playing with Sergio Garcia and so admires Seve Ballesteros. 

Speaking of Morgan Pressel, she shot up into 3rd by herself after a tidy 66 and she spoke about swing changes she had made and how people think of her as being older because she’s been playing in professional tournaments for nine years. She’s only 26.

All great stuff, but not enough to build an entire post around just one of them. I was all so comfortable, I began having to fight falling asleep; jolted back to the written word every so often and sucking great quantities of air through cavernous yawns.

And then I started reading Michelle Wie’s transcript. She was T4 with Sara Jane Smith and Sandra Gal after shooting 67.

I got engrossed when she began talking about her work with David Leadbetter and how it so compliments her joy in working on her game:

“Yeah, that’s the beauty of this game.  It’s a hard game and you’re going to have tough days out there.  At the same time, that’s kind of the fun part about it.  You go out there after your round and try to figure it out.  I love that part.”

“I love when you’re not feeling comfortable — I love working with David and trying to figure out, ‘Okay, what can I do to make myself more comfortable the next day.'”

“There is always a next day, a next tournament.  You just got to work on some things if you need to.  If not, just keep playing.  It’s a hard game.  You’re going to have bad days and good days.”

“I just want to build upon today.  There are a lot of the positives.  Obviously some things I do want to work on for tomorrow. Just got to keep doing what I’m doing.”

Leadbetter mentioned to the media about how her leg strength had gotten better this year and I thought her response captured the subtlety of refined athletic conditioning in a great way…and later on as the details came out, funny:

“Yeah, for sure.  I always thought I was quote/unquote strong, but I really wasn’t.  I was unstable.  I was not strong in the right places for the golf swing.  I really feel like [trainer] Dave Donatucci this year has really helped me to figure out where I need to get stronger.”

“There are certain things in my swing I wanted to fix with Leadbetter, but we just couldn’t.  No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get in that position. But I feel like Donatucci really helped to get stronger and help the club to get in the right position.”

So what kind of exercises did she do to get stronger?

“You know, I always thought, ‘Oh, you need to do heavy weights whatever, squats.’  But golf is a lot of fine motion.  A lot of little muscles here and there, little muscles in my butt that I have discovered over the past year that have been really hurting.”

In her “bottom” a reporter helpfully offered?

“Yeah.  (Laughter.)  My bottom muscles were irritated all year.  (Laughter.)”

But the payoff for me was when she began responding to why she and Leadbetter stayed together for so long despite calls from some to get rid of him:

“Yeah, when you’re playing bad, it’s not anyone else’s fault.  It’s not your caddie’s, your coach’s.  It’s really you not being able to execute the shots and make the putts.”

“I’ve always believed in David’s philosophies.  He’s kind of like a second father to me.  I’ve been working with him since I was 13.  So he’s definitely one person that has always believed in me no matter what.”

“I believe that he’s one of the best.  If I don’t go to him, then I don’t know who to go to.  I just needed to fix some things as a player, and it wasn’t anyone’s fault.”

“I always thought he said the right things and taught me the right way.  I just needed to learn how to execute it.”

Leadbetter dealt with a great deal of criticism over their ten years together. Did she find it amusing that critics were trying to place the blame on him for some of her periodic spotty play?

“You know, I think everyone has their own reasons.  For me personally, I never like to play the blame game.  I think that people are really quick to blame people.”

“If my caddie gives me a bad read, I’m still the person that decides to listen to the guy and hit the right‑to‑left putt.  Everyone wants that player to play well. You never give bad advice because you want to or whatnot.  In the end, it’s about the player executing the shot.”

“I felt like David was obviously one of the top‑notch instructors out there, and he gave me the best advice that he gave me.  Whether or not it was good or not, I took it, I believed in it.  In tournaments I just didn’t execute the shots.”

“So in the end, it was really all my fault, because I am the player and I take full responsibility for it.  But I felt like my support group was great with my parents, my agents, sponsors, everything. Kind of we all want the same thing and everyone is helping me achieve my goals, so I’m really grateful for everyone that has helped me.”

And finally, the money quote on all of this from a mastery point of view. Mastery is about fostering a high level of awareness so that you can discover what’s occurring in your swing, in your mind, in your belief system.

So she really doesn’t blame anyone?

“No, I do it all the time.  No, I try obviously I am human, and internally I do feel like I play the blame game a lot.”

“You have to take a step back and realize you’re the one pulling the trigger and you have to take responsibility for what you do. I’m a believer of that.”

That precept works everywhere in life, of course.

And so, as time moves along, you are able to be in the question of blaming others knowing all the while that you don’t want to. It’s the awareness that finally allows for the change.

What a great game.

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