Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Padraig's Secret Weapon

Padraig Harrington is the new man to beat! He flips on the turbo-boosters when he needs to, and the Irishman fills the current Tiger-shaped void as someone who actually goes out and snatches the championship away from the other contenders.

Sergio played valiantly for the week, but a couple of key errors coming down the stretch cost him (why do you flirt with the water on #16?). Don't feel too sorry for Sergio, though...did you know that he has actually beaten Padraig in playoffs twice before? Garcia first humbled him on the European Tour at the 1999 German Masters, and again at the 2004 Buick Classic on the PGA TOUR. As much as Sergio probably dreads a head-to-head showdown with Padraig these days, it used to be the other way around. What has turned the tables? It's Harrington's secret weapon, or what he calls his fifteenth club...his superior mental game!

Padraig will be the first to admit that his swing and natural talent have never been head of the class. But he is a tireless worker, and more importantly, has totally embraced the notion of resilient attitude and a "soft focus". His mental coach is acclaimed golf consultant Bob Rotella, who just published a new book entitled Your 15th Club. In his book, Rotella reveals how Padraig's intense dedication to the mental side of golf has been the catalyst for his stellar play in the last few years.

You always hear a victorious pro praising their ability to focus and stay in the moment. I've never really considered "how" you are supposed to fine tune such abilities, but a good friend of mine named Lee Palms recently clued me in. Lee played briefly on the mini-tours after college, but quickly traded in his golf clubs for a briefcase and family life. In the past decade, he's had some success as a local amateur golfer in South Carolina, defeating most of the other "30-something" guys. But this summer Lee Palms has caught fire. He recently qualified for the upcoming U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst, beating out dozens of flat-bellied college players, and then last weekend he again stuck it to the "young guns" when he won the South Carolina State Amateur. This week, he qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur in September, shooting 66 and earning medalist honors for his site. During a congratulatory phone call, I asked him what has made the difference in his game.

"Don't laugh," he started out, "but it's seriously been my improved mental approach. Simplifying my routine, being target-focused over the ball, accepting my bad shots and moving on, positive self-talk only, journaling my good shots and building up my self-image as a successful golfer."

"OK, but how exactly do you do all that?" I asked. "My mind is going a mile a minute when I play a competitive round!"

"This is where Rotella's new book has really helped. He provides a bunch of techniques and phrases to help you establish a daily mental routine of affirmation and confidence. And then it's up to you to really practice and apply this stuff. It takes some commitment, but I've been working really hard on it, and it's obviously started paying off."

So there it is...a book about golf's mental game that is showing some real results. Not only is it benefiting Padraig Harrington, 36-year old winner of three of the last six major championships, but it's also helping Lee Palms, 39-year old working man and reigning SC State Am Champ. I've got no aspirations of following in the footsteps of either guy, but I do want to become a better golfer and maximize my potential. Stay tuned, because I'm ordering Bob Rotella's Your 15th Club today and getting on board.

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Anonymous Zane said...

Hey Lee,

Congrats on the great play! I am completely jealous about the US Amateur. Pinehurst #2 is one of the greatest tournament courses I have ever seen. Have a great time, and best of luck!

August 14, 2008 9:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

because the mind game is so important to the game of golf it brings up a lot of questions. for instance, should the pga test for beta blockers? can hypnosis work? if so, why don't more players see a shrink just before playing instead of hitting range balls? should you be able to smoke cigarettes while playing to calm the nerves? how about drink a beer?

August 18, 2008 11:07 AM  
Anonymous Chief said...

I think Lee Palms is just being being humble. The guy must be a total stud. Awesome summer! Did I actually hear through the grapevine that he used to get drummed at Druid by Philly Dog and Ed??

August 18, 2008 11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think the pga ought pull an lpga move and inforce a rule against irish accents. maybe that will slow pardraig down-

August 28, 2008 8:48 AM  
Blogger matt e. said...

Great post, Casey! Sounds like an interesting book that would be helpful for more than golf.

September 15, 2008 1:21 PM  

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