Winners’ Edges

Not to beat a dead horse, but this idea we’ve been exploring recently about being able to hold the shot in your mind’s eye during your swing is just so important.

Here are some excerpts from Phil Mickelson’s interview after winning yesterday at the Shell Houston Open at the Redstone Golf Club in Humble, Texas. You don’t get to hear this kind of revealing analysis very often. And later, Phil talks about how great golf doesn’t have one-size-fits-all solutions.

Q: I know you’ve been asked all week long about this week being somewhat of a tune-up for next week [and the Masters], and your response has always been that you’re focused on the Shell Houston Open, and you obviously got the job done. Just a few comments on this week prior to heading into next week.

So, it feels really good for me to have played well and to gain some momentum heading into next week. It feels a lot like ’06 in that I needed to have a week where I kind of put it together. By that I mean, I’ve been saying all year I’m playing well but I’m not getting the scores out of it, and I’m having just kind of a lapse of focus.

And it was even evident today on a couple shots, a basic easy chip shot on 8 that I flubbed [by one of the best short games in the world] and 3-putting 15. Those little types of lack of concentration. I’ve got to continue to work on that. Although all in all, this was one of the best weeks I’ve had in a long time as far as seeing the shot and being able to hit it.

So, it was a great week in that regard and great for getting momentum heading in next week.

Q. Phil, it’s like you flipped a switch after No. 8. That’s right after that you go and birdie five in a row, and can you kind of talk about how you turned it around there?

I was so upset at myself for losing concentration over that shot that I really was able to maintain my focus the next few holes. And then I was so upset at the way I let my mind wander on 15 when I had a great eagle opportunity and then missed the come-back for birdie that I’m really proud of the way I focused in on 16 and hit the best — one of the best 9-irons, best shots I’ve hit all week to within a couple feet to make birdie.

So I was able to battle back when I did have a couple of those lapses, but I know going into Augusta and the penalties being so severe there that I’ve got to be able to work on [holding the shot in my mind during the swing].

Q. You talked a little bit about playing the week before the Masters. Talk about what it does for you, though.

Each player as an individual golfer has to find out what’s best for them to prepare for a big event. And I find that I tend to play my best in a Major Championship when I compete the week before. It gets me into competitive frame of mind, and I enjoy the challenge in only having three days between competitive rounds.

So that for me personally works. But I know that Nicklaus and a lot of guys [Woods, Kaymer, McDowell] prefer to have the week off and kind of focus in on that one particular golf course and those shots. I understand that. There’s an argument both ways. As a player, you have to find out what works best for you as the individual.

And, interesting enough, Tom Lehman touched on that same theme in the context of players’ swings in his interview after his 4-shot victory in the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic at Fallen Oak in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Q. Tom, we’ve been watching you for all these years. Your swing never seems to change any. Who taught it to you, and have you ever had to adjust it at all?

…I had Les Bolstad, who was a legend in Minnesota, and then Jim Flick over the last 20 years. And I think the main thing, Les kind of got me on the right path with my swing, and then Jim kind of kept me there.

You know, and I’ve always lived by the philosophy that you find what you do well and then perfect it. What I have done well is draw the ball, and so every teacher I ever had, every lesson I ever had I always said don’t ever, ever, ever try to get me to do anything where I can’t draw the ball. If you think I hook it too much, then make it less high or something, but I always want to hook it.

And I was telling Jim this, if you ever try to get me to hit it left or right, I’m dropping you like a bad habit. You know, we’re done. So obviously he never ever pushed that, never even tried to go there. He simply just helped me, you know, work through my swing issues until I could fix them in the middle of a round and then always, always keeping my path of my swing in such a way that I could hit a draw.

Clearly this is what he and Phil meant about doing what’s right for you and your game. And, once you’re informed, you’re the only one who can know. By all means, listen to what people may have to say, but listen to yourself most of all.

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One Response to Winners’ Edges

  1. Robert Rogers says:

    Talk about winners’ edges, how about this coming Sunday marking the 25th anniversary of Jack’s last Masters (and major tourney) victory? Because he won by a single stroke and was dismissively long in the tooth — and for a lot of other reasons, no doubt — this was, IMHO, the most dramatic finish in modern golf history. Everybody who follows golf recalls well where they were on that momentous day . Our hearts were in our throats as Jack, oblivious to the distant noise of a freight train, lined up and drained that putt to take the lead for the first time on the 71st hole. The roar of the gallery rumbled like never before, and then we saw Jack, as if in awe of his own feat, look to the sky in gratitude to some other force for keeping his ball on line. Relive it at It should be fun this weekend to hear the great one talk about what was coursing through his mind on his way to that victory, which, curiously, he refuses to regard as his greatest.