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Saturday, January 28, 2012

No Phil for the Game

At least, not this weekend. After shooting 77-68, Phil Mickelson tossed his bags in the trunk and headed on home. His +1 score missed the cut by 3 shots.

Phil at workThe irony here is that Phil says he feels pretty good about his game. He said Thursday's round was "pathetic" and he can only blame it on lack of focus. Friday he put it this way:
"I don't feel like there's any one area that I feel bad about my game. It's just that I'm not bringing it from the practice session on to the golf course yet. I'm not sure why that is, but the good news is in my practice sessions it's been great in every area, except that I'm not carrying it to the course and scoring and playing smart and putting the ball in the right spot and what have you. So that's probably the area that I'll be working on here this weekend now that I have it off."
Sound familiar? Some of you may think that's a cop-out, but I think Phil may be right.

I wouldn't call it a lack of focus though. Rather, I think it's a confusion of focus.

You may remember a post I did a week ago about Phil's debut at the Hope. One of the articles I referenced from Golf.com included this statement:
"Butch Harmon raved to Golf World recently about Mickelson’s improved outlook under mental coach Julie Elion and said Mickelson is making more putts."
And indeed, Phil did make more putts on Friday. But the rest of his game seemed a bit off.

An article in USAToday from last August had more detail on Julie Elion. It included this quote from Tim Rosaforte, which came from this Golf Digest post:
"Mickelson doesn't want to go into detail on what they work on, but inside the camp Elion is credited, in part, with Phil's enthusiastic attitude during tough links conditions that resulted in his T-2 at the British Open. Elion works with 10 players on the PGA Tour, including J.B.Holmes."
You may remember that Phil seemed to lose focus on the back nine at the Open as well. He missed the cut at the Greenbrier Classic and his best finish the rest of the year was a 10th at the Tour Championship.

We have heard some about what Phil is working on. Butch Harmon told GC that Phil was trying to freewheel it a bit more, which I guess means he's trying not to over-analyze his game so much on the course. My point here isn't that he's doing anything wrong but that, much like swing changes, mental changes can take a while to fully incorporate into your game.

To use the swing thought from yesterday's post as an example, when you try to focus on your target rather than your mechanics -- but you're used to thinking mechanics -- sometimes your brain sends mixed messages to your muscles. It can take a while to develop a new thought pattern, especially if you're still trying to figure out exactly what thoughts should be changed.

If you make changes to your mental game, you may find yourself with the same problem as Phil. Mental adjustments could be the hardest part of improving.

That's what I think is happening to Phil. He's so used to dissecting shots with Bones before he even addresses the ball that his brain ends up with extra time when he steps up to the ball... then his mind just slips into neutral for a few moments, so to speak, and he loses his train of thought. Being a creature of habit, I suspect he needs to make some changes to his pre-shot routine to eliminate that "dead spot" in his thinking. You may need to do the same thing when you take a new approach to your game.

But don't worry about Phil, folks -- he'll get it figured out. He figured out how to win the Masters, didn't he?

2 comments:

  1. WE ALL WANT PHIL TO COMPETE AND WIN......WHEN YOU GET TO HIS AGE......DIFFERENT PRIORITIES COME INTO PLAY.... I MAKE NO EXCUSES, BECAUSE I HOPE AND KNOW HE CAN WIN........BUT.....(PLEASE NO LAUGHING HERE) HOW ABOUT PGA TOUR.....40 AND UNDER........PGA TOUR....40-53.....PGA TOUR......53-AND......62 SUPER SENIORS..............AS WE GET OLDER PRIORITIES CHANGE..OUR KIDS GROW UP...WE HAVE MORE THINGS TO DO..WITH FAMILY......SCHOOL ACTIVITIES.....AND SO ON........YES JACK WON AT 46...YES WATSON CAME CLOSE IN BRITISH......AND I AM SURE OTHERS...............BUT ITS JUST MY SUGGESTION........AND THE POSITIVE RESPONSE I WILL GET WILL MOST LIKE BE THE SAME FROM FROM 15 YR OLD DAUGHTER WHEN I ASKED HER TO TAKE OUT THE GARBAGE...............GEEEZ DAD.....

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  2. I don't think you're crazy, Howard, but I don't think we need that many divisions to the Tour. Unlike many people who nonchalantly say "the ball doesn't know how old you are," I really believe it!

    I believe Tom Watson can still win on the PGA Tour. The problem for him isn't length. Tom hit it 280 last year, Luke Donald 284. Tom is as long as most of the players on Tour. He's got more skill, more knowledge, and more wisdom than most of the players. He simply needs to accept that he needs to use a different strategy now than he did when courses were set up differently. As long as the older guys are healthy, I think they can compete without any trouble at all.

    That's why you're seeing an increased number of over-40 winners. Those guys figured it out.

    A lot of the guys on the Champions Tour could still compete if they wanted to. I suspect most of them are just tired of the grind, and there's no shame in that.

    One other thought about priorities. I suspect that, even if Tiger passes him, Jack will still be considered the greatest player ever. The reason is simple: Jack had different priorities all along. Tiger and most of the other successful players have been obsessed with the game... and that's why most of them have had so many family problems. Jack amassed his record while always keeping the game in perspective, and he basically "retired" at 40 to focus on other things. (That's his own assessment.)

    You're not crazy, but the problem isn't that the players have different priorities now. It's that they're just learning how to live with good priorities... and they don't yet know how to deal with the change.

    Phil? I think he's always had his priorities straight. I look for at least another 2 or 3 majors out of him before he's done. ;-)

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