SWING DR TO THE STARS

PETE COWEN ON HIS FIVE MA­JOR CHAM­PI­ONS, A PRANK WITH A LION AND A TRAGEDY THAT HAUNTS HIM

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - The Golf Life Passings -

IT'S early tues­day morn­ing of the 2011 Open Cham­pi­onship at Royal St Ge­orge’s, and Dar­ren Clarke is a mess. He’s trudg­ing to­wards the range with his head down and shoul­ders slumped. When he gets to me, I ask,“Are you all right, Dar­ren?” He says, “No, I’m f------ not. I can’t hit the ball. I’m wast­ing my time. I might as well go home.” I had seen this be­fore in Dar­ren. I had talked him down off the ledge many times. I said, “Look, the weather is go­ing to be ter­ri­ble, and you’re the best bad-weather player in the world.Why would you think you’ve got no chance? Let’s have a look at you. ”Af­ter watch­ing him hit balls briefly, I gave him one thing to think about. Within two hours, his de­meanour changed com­pletely: “Watch me hit this stinger . . . . Watch me hit this high draw.” It was an in­cred­i­ble ex­hi­bi­tion of shot­mak­ing. As he left the range, I said, a lit­tle sar­cas­ti­cally, “Are you okay now?” Dar­ren replied, “Yeah, but I still can’t f------ putt.” We laughed. He won by three. i’ve had five play­ers win ma­jor cham­pi­onships while I was work­ing with them: Dar­ren Clarke, Louis Oosthuizen, Graeme McDow­ell, Danny Wil­lett and Hen­rik Sten­son. Some other very good play­ers: Lee West­wood,T homas Bjorn, Ser­gio Gar­cia and Charl Schwartzel (be­fore they both won the Masters) among them. And now, Thomas Pi­eters and Matthew Fitz­patrick. Over 200 tour­na­ment ti­tles world­wide. I’m proud of that, but you might have no­ticed I keep a fairly low pro­file. It’s not about me. I had my shot at fame when I played pro­fes­sion­ally for 10 years dur­ing the 1970s. I had very mid­dling suc­cess – I was a fail­ure, re­ally – and my time to be fa­mous came and went. As a coach, it’s good to be part of some­thing spe­cial. But let’s face it, it’s about the play­ers. ●●● lee west­wood told me that at his first Ry­der Cup, at Valder­rama in 1997, Seve, who was cap­tain, ap­proached him on the prac­tice range and held out some balls of cot­ton. “Lee, I want you to put these in your ears be­fore you go to the first tee,” he said. “The noise there will be deaf­en­ing.” Lee replied, “I’ve worked a long time just to hear that roar. No thanks, Seve. ”Which tells you some­thing about world-class play­ers. They love the stage. ●●● im­prov­ing at golf is not that big a deal. I can guar­an­tee dra­matic im­prove­ment from 15 min­utes a day, with­out even us­ing a club. But that com­mit­ment is way out of the range of most peo­ple. I spoke re­cently at a sem­i­nar at­tended by 500 Aus­tralian club pros. I said, “We’ve long known that ex­er­cis­ing 15 min­utes per day will add sev­eral years to our lives. Those of you who have spent 15 min­utes daily over the last 10 years, raise your hands.” Not a hand went up. I said, “If you won’t com­mit 15 min­utes to length­en­ing your very life, what makes you think you’ll de­vote 15 min­utes to golf? ”The prob­lem comes down to ac­tu­ally do­ing it. It’s a very tough sell.

●●● the fas­ci­nat­ing thing to me is how all these great play­ers are dif­fer­ent. They’re gifted in vary­ing ways – phys­i­cally, emo­tion­ally, tem­per­a­men­tally and am­bi­tion-wise. Louis Oosthuizen’s gift was to never be tempted to change the awe­some swing that won the Open at St An­drews in 2010. It’s the same ba­sic swing I saw when he came to me as an am­a­teur.That’s a gift, be­lieve me.When a player has suc­cess, there’s al­ways a voice that whis­pers they can be even bet­ter if they make this one change. It can be dis­as­trous, but Louis never heard that voice. He also has never changed his pri­or­i­ties in life. His fam­ily comes first, his farm sec­ond and golf third. Noth­ing will ever change that. ●●● danny wil­lett’s great­est gift is some­thing that can’t be taught. I’m talk­ing the to­tal ab­sence of stage fright. Did you watch him win the Masters? Here it was, the big­gest mo­ment of his ca­reer and maybe his life, yet he seemed no more ner­vous than if he were play­ing with his mates at home. It was in­cred­i­ble. Stage fright is a form of chok­ing, a fear of em­bar­rass­ing your­self. It hap­pens in ev­ery­thing, from singing karaoke to giv­ing a speech to play­ing a week­end round with your pals. Over­com­ing it is some­thing that can’t be taught. It has to be sorted out, alone, the way Bern­hard Langer did with his yips. What’s killing Tiger Woods? Stage fright. This great ath­lete, who once laughed at bad shots and had no self-con­scious­ness at all, is now ter­ri­fied of look­ing like the rest of us. He’s done what most stage-fright vic­tims do, which is try to over­come it by dis­sect­ing his tech­nique.That stanches the flow of cre­ativ­ity, robs from the player’s in­her­ent tal­ent. ●●● tiger woods’ last year as an am­a­teur in some ways was the high-wa­ter mark of his swing. He had height on his back­swing. He had a drop on his down­swing that was to die for, a mo­ment of de­cel­er­a­tion with his up­per body that al­lowed his arms to catch up. He then ex­ploded into the ball in a way that was in­cred­i­ble. He will never have that again, if for noth­ing else than age. Age even­tu­ally makes ev­ery­one look or­di­nary. ●●● i spend my share of time around mis­er­able mil­lion­aires. If you as­sume tour play­ers are unimaginably happy and con­tent, I as­sure you that is not the case. Many are, but most aren’t.They are healthy, rich and liv­ing the dream, but some­thing in them – the per­fec­tion­ist ten­den­cies, per­haps – leads them to not be­ing happy peo­ple.When you think about it, there are only two things in life that are es­sen­tial: food and shel­ter. Be­yond that, it’s all win­dow dress­ing.A new iPhone? New car? Big­ger house?You’ve got to be kid­ding. If there’s a fact of life I see hit home on an al­most daily ba­sis, it’s that money and fame do not bring hap­pi­ness. ●●● as a coach, I can’t look at Adam Scott and not see sort of a puz­zle. On one hand, I see all this nat­u­ral abil­ity and won­der, like many peo­ple, why he hasn’t been more dom­i­nant. On the other hand, he has ac­com­plished a lot: Masters cham­pion,WGC ti­tles and wins all over the world.Who’s to say he’s un­der­achieved?You can­not crit­i­cise him. It’s his life. Con­tent­ment is not a crime. ●●● when i be­gan teach­ing other pro­fes­sion­als, I im­me­di­ately formed a fee struc­ture that is quite dif­fer­ent from that of many teach­ers in Amer­ica. My com­pany, Top Ten Golf Lim­ited, is a ser­vice that is strictly per­for­mance-based. I get 4 per­cent of the play­ers’ tour­na­ment win­nings, but only for fin­ishes in the top 10. If they don’t fin­ish in the top 10, I don’t get paid. I cover all my ex­penses and am avail­able on short no­tice. I’m very proud of this.What other coach in the world of sports has the con­fi­dence to struc­ture their fee sched­ule this way? There have been times when the re­sults of my coach­ing have pro­duced rev­enue for me that the play­ers’ agents felt was ex­ces­sive.This led me to add a corol­lary to my of­fer: If the player leaves my camp, for any rea­son what­so­ever, and doesn’t leave a to­ken bit of com­pen­sa­tion in place, said player can­not come back.This hap­pened sev­eral years ago with a very good player I was help­ing.A Ry­der Cup­per who be­came top 50 in the world.The player’s agent rang me one day to say his player was go­ing to “do his own thing,” was leav­ing and choos­ing not to keep a bit for me in­tact. I warned that said player couldn’t come back. Some time later, the player’s per­for­mance de­clined.The agent phoned me, ask­ing if I would be­gin work­ing with his player again.To that I said,“You ob­vi­ously weren’t lis­ten­ing.” I couldn’t take the player back. But good luck to him. He’s a nice lad, and still a good player. ●●● i dis­like putting. It car­ries too much weight, scor­ing-wise. If it were up to me, each putt would count only half a stroke. I give you two golfers. Player A hits a 3-iron over wa­ter to a back-right pin. Hits it to 10 feet, then misses the putt. Player B hits a big pull left of the green, pitches it to six feet and holes the putt. Un­der my sys­tem, Player A scores a 2 on the hole, while Player B scores 2½.That’s called jus­tice.And it would speed up the game. ●●● i helped the Irish men’s team when Rory

‘IF YOU AS­SUME TOUR PLAY­ERS ARE UNIMAGINABLY HAPPY AND CON­TENT, I AS­SURE YOU THAT IS NOT THE CASE.’

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