Charlie Wi leads the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am after two rounds. He’s at 12-under and has a three-shot lead over Dustin Johnson and four over the quintet of: Brian Gay, Vijay Singh, Danny Lee, Padraig Harrington and Brendon Todd.
Phil Mickelson is five shots back at 7-under, Tiger Woods is six back and they are both playing very well.
Charlie Wi is one of the stack-and-tilt swing proponents and has pretty faithfully adhered to those ideas. And now, it’s all starting to gel for him. It begins with his realization that he really is a good player. This transition from stewing over it to suddenly having a completely different sense of himself is what transformation looks like.
You play golf better now than you ever have?
I feel like I just turned 40 at the beginning of this year, and for some reason it was really weird, I felt really comfortable with myself. And I believe that I have more self-belief than I’ve ever had since I’ve been out here. I know I’ve got a good swing and I’m a good putter, but I’ve always doubted myself a lot. So when things don’t go well, I always got down on myself very easy. I feel like I’m getting over that hump.
Next he talks about his relationship with his sports psychologist and how he’s a catalyst, not an alchemist.
And he goes on to reveal that as a seven-year PGA Tour player, he was spinning his wheels working so hard on his swing, he was unable to just play golf…of interest to us because that’s what most of us do too.
Talk about getting over that psychological hump. Was that a gradual maturation? Something you did?
You know, sports psychology is great. I definitely have one. But they can tell you if you don’t believe in yourself, doesn’t matter what they say to you, you have to do it yourself.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I still doubt myself. But I feel like I am really comfortable with my golf swing. Before I always thought that little bit. Meaning I was trying to make it look so pretty on camera, where I was constantly working on golf swings during tournaments I was almost throwing tournaments away because I was working on my golf swing.
I feel I’m at a point now where I’m very comfortable with my golf swing, and I just want to keep playing golf. Not playing golf swings.
To their credit, the media found this interesting and kept pressing the issue. But what was more interesting was that his answer revealed his introspection about himself. And in the simple act of thinking about himself, he saw the path.
And what’s exciting about this is that his insights about himself got him through these first two days and he is not afraid of what’s to come. He’s looking forward to seeing how he handles himself.
Did you just wake up one morning and it kind of dawned on you a little bit?
Yeah, I don’t know what turned. I don’t know what turned. Just I don’t know what it was. I knew that– I don’t know. I can’t really say. I remember when I had time off this winter I looked at myself and I needed to ask what do I need to improve to go to the next step and be more consistent? And if you don’t have that self-belief, it’s really hard to do.
I’ve always thought that. And I know the next two days are going to be very tough because there are going to be a lot of demons trying to look ahead and doubts. But those are the challenges I’m looking forward to to see how I handle myself.
Now the media is enthralled with Wi and presses on for even more detail. And in this discourse, he gets in touch with that transformative moment. He also gives us some insight on what a studied affair this is; he actually keeps a notebook:
Do you think that’s pretty cool that you’ve come up that step?
To get over that hump and you talked about feeling better about your swing?
Well, I feel that now, and we’ll see how I do under pressure, and I’ll tell you.
Q. How did you deal with [holding the 54-hole lead at Colonial]?
I think that’s where it turned. It was the first time where I really I had the lead Saturday night. I really enjoyed that. I wrote down in my notebook, you know what, being in the lead is fun. I think I started embracing it instead of being scared.
I know you ask me, is it an out-of-body experience? No. I’ve been there, and it’s better than being in 30th, that’s for sure.
What notebook are you talking with?
Oh, I just jot down a bunch of stuff all the time. Like you (laughing).
Because the stack-and-tilt method is fairly radical, the media kept coming back to how his transition was going.
On the one hand, it’s very interesting to see just how vulnerable an experienced Tour player was feeling as he was going through the process (there may be hope for us!). And on the other hand, it was heartwarming to read about a human being coming out of his shell.
Some of the changes you made were pretty radical a couple years ago. Is it really sinking in now and you’re not having to think about the swing change as much?
My geometry, meaning my swing plane, has been good for a long time. Something changed last year in Canada at O’Shaughnessy where I was able to control the ball for the first time.
Before then, I hate to say it, but I would look up and I was hoping that it was going where I was looking. Luckily enough, my swing was good enough where I had more of that than not. But in Canada was the first time I really formed the ball, how I want to shape it, hit it, and from then on, I’ve just been gaining confidence. I have a better understanding of what I need to work on with my swing to be that consistent.
And finally, as a model for us all, here’s a man who is enduring the trials and tribulations of finding his way to a home on the PGA Tour…a man who has been bloodied by the process of making a major swing change…and a man who is gratefully at peace with all of it.
Do you feel like you’re due?
Other people feel like I’m due, but trust me, of course I want to win, but golf doesn’t owe me anything.
And I play on the PGA Tour. That’s pretty awesome.