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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Some Demons Play Rather Well

At least, they do if they're Kevin Na's demons. I wish GC could have interviewed those little guys. Wouldn't that have been a fascinating interview?

Kevin Na photoWhat I find so interesting is how specific these "demons" are. Most of us struggle at one time or another with too much information bouncing around in the attic. But generally those distractions completely derail our game. They mess up our whole swing and leave us wondering if we'll ever hit a ball squarely again.

That's not the case with Kevin. According to his teacher Dale Lynch, Kevin's been making a dramatic swing change in order to improve his driving. And it's working -- in fact, the improvement itself is dramatic. Kevin has jumped a long way up in the driving stats, and it's even had a positive effect on his iron play.

But Kevin isn't comfortable with the change yet. He's having trouble once he gets over the ball, and that causes him to have trouble "pulling the trigger." Most people would expect these "driver yips" to completely derail his ability to hit shots, yet once Kevin gets the club going he generally stripes the ball.

His demons are specific. They haunt the changes that he and his coach have made to his setup. Once he gets comfortable enough in his setup to start the swing, everything else happens exactly as it should.

Tim Rosaforte called it "double-clutching" and I think that's a good term. It reminds me of a car with clutch problems. Everything in the drivetrain works just fine... but sometimes the clutch works and sometimes it doesn't. Once it catches, the car jerks into motion and shoots forward at high speed.

Otherwise the car just sits there while the engine revs wildly.

These demons are so specific that they defy both description and understanding to the rest of us. But I think this may be the key to understanding why Kevin's game continues to improve, even as he berates himself for his inability to beat them now. Kevin knows what his problem is, and he knows what he has to do to beat it. Make a note of this, because it may help you overcome mental problems in your own game: It's easier to find the determination to beat the problem when you know exactly what the problem is.

Kevin says he and his coach hope his current struggle will be won before the year ends. (His playing companions certainly hope so. Kevin has been so open and non-defensive about it that they all probably sympathize... but that doesn't mean they like it.) When it is, his pace of play should pick up considerably as well. In the meantime he can see the improvement that he expected when he began these changes.

But the biggest challenge of his life may come today. He slept on the 54-hole lead. He's missed the cut at TPC Sawgrass far more often than he's made it... and only once has he cracked the Top50. (That was a T3 in 2009.) Can he continue to stave off the demons long enough to close out the biggest tournament of his life so far?

And if he does, will his demons throw a party for him or just demand a cut of the purse?

The photo came from Kevin's bio page at PGATOUR.com.

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