Dena Davis is the coolest ever

By Randall MellApril 1, 2008, 4:00 pm
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Kenny Perry said he didnt choke at the Masters, but in the wake of his disappointing finish he derided himself as an average player.
 
Did he get it backwards?
 
Is he an exceptional player whose nerves got the best of him at Augusta National?
 
Tiger Woods insisted he was just a fraction off at the Masters even though he finished 42nd in driving accuracy and 45th in putting among the 50 players who made the cut.
 
Kenny Perry missed a string of critical shots down the stretch at the Masters. (Getty Images)
Was Woods fooling himself?
 
A year ago this week, Woody Austin hit two terrible shots at the 72nd hole of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans to blow a chance to win and proclaimed himself the biggest choking dog ever.
 
Did that blunt assessment reveal deeper issues that may be getting in Austins way of winning?
 
In golfs cruel endings, when players fail on the games largest stages, do the words they choose in the emotional aftermath really matter?
 
Sports psychologists do some of their most meaningful work roaming the mental carnage defeat causes like triage doctors of the mind. They listen, they learn and they prescribe medicine.
 
What theyve learned is that defeat is a cruel teacher, all too eager to strip away fraud and pretense to expose delicate truths.
 
The most heartbreaking defeats can roll through a players mind like an earthquake, leaving only the sturdiest beliefs standing amid the rubble.
 
The games played in a little world of make believe, says sports psychologist Bob Rotella.
 
Do words matter in emotional aftermaths?
 
Sports psychologists will tell you they do matter, but that belief trumps truth in those words. And theyll tell you theres a difference between believing and fooling yourself.
 
Do words matter? Absolutely, says Gio Valiante, a professor in the department of education at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., who works with tour pros. Words and cognition are powerfully related. Thats why writing a journal, or talking through a problem, helps people. The things we hear, or tell ourselves, theyre very, very powerful.
 
Dr. Joseph Parent, creator of Zen Golf, says players who beat themselves up as choking dogs the way Austin did risk injury that lingers long after a shot.
 
When you say something like that, youre not only saying it, youre hearing it, and if youre hearing something too much, youre going to start believing it, Parent said.
 
The nature of golf, maybe more than any other sport, challenges the way players talk to themselves.
 
Golf is probably the most assaultive sport on the sense of self that there is, says Preston Waddington, a Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., psychoanalyst who works with Stewart Cink, Tim Clark, Jason Gore and others.
 
Waddington said tour pros can go from feeling exalted to deep self loathing from one shot to the next.
 
The refrain of every golfer Ive ever worked with is: `I stink, Waddington said. Its almost a mantra. Golf is a very, very shaming sport. Every single golfer Ive dealt with is scared to death of being shamed. You touch on that with a player, you have their attention.
 
Its why players find the notion that they choked away a tournament so offensive.
 
Choke is one of those three words golfers dont like to use, Parent said. Shank, yips and choke. Golfers are superstitious. They think if they say one of those words, they might do it.
 
NBC-TV analyst Johnny Miller touches nerves among players, in part, because of his zealous dissection of the choke factor.
 
Really, guys choke all the time, Rotella said. But people tend to think that means a player was scared to death. What it really means is that you have some doubt in your head. We use the terminology, `Getting in your own way. The mind isnt clear.
 
Golf teaches that its OK to have a swing flaw, but its not OK to have doubt or fear. If you have doubt or fear, you arent a man. We all have doubt and fear. Its about who can control it. Its why we play the game.
 
By Rotellas definition, choking can occur when a player over a shot clutters his head with thoughts that shouldnt be there.
 
Most recreational players never hit a shot with a clear mind, Rotella said. Most people dont understand what its like to be totally clear, where your mind is quiet.
 
It really doesnt take much to get in your own way. If a player has any question about his ball position, his alignment, anything like that, its going to show up in the shot. Thats why its so cool when somebody steps up [under pressure] and trusts his swing and hits a great shot. We ought to spend more time praising Trevor Immelman and Angel Cabrera for stepping up and hitting great shots to win the Masters the last two years than talking so much about players who didnt.
 
Words in the aftermath matter to Rotella because they reveal what clears and clutters the mind.
 
You can prime somebody for a given behavior by exposing them to certain words, Valiante said. I can prime you to do a lot of different things with you unaware that youre being primed.
 
Valiantes proven it in social experiments at Rollins College. In one experiment, he has measured the time it takes subjects to walk from the doorway of his building to his office. While in his office, he drops words related to Floridas retirement community image, words like elderly and geriatric and other such words. He says the subjects are consistently timed walking at a slower pace upon leaving the building. He can cite similar experiments where subjects act aggressively and rudely when primed with certain words.
 
Thats why we pay close attention to the words we use with players, Valiante said. We spend so much time finding just the right word. Camilo (Villegas) likes the word flow when talking about putting. He likes it when his putting is flowing.
 
Preparing at Augusta National earlier this month, Villegas sent a text message to Valiante before a practice round.
 
Camilo said he was going to respect the course, not fear it, Valiante said. Finding the right word to transform your mindset can be the key. Words absolutely matter. Anyone who doesnt believe that should pay attention to how Tiger Woods uses words.
 
Woods insistence that he was just a fraction off at the Masters was classic Woods. What he believes becomes his reality.
 
Tiger was once asked something like, `If God would only allow you to win one major, which major would you choose? Valiante said. Tigers response was, `Knowing me, I would argue with him and want to know why I couldnt have four. Tiger doesnt allow himself to contemplate less than what hes trying to achieve.
 
In ice skating, when Tara Lapinsky had that perfect routine to win the gold medal over Michelle Kwan [in 1998], Michelle was asked if she were crushed she didnt win the gold. Michelle gave the perfect example of what you want athletes to say in those situations. She said, `I didnt lose the gold medal. I won the silver medal. How you interpret an experience dictates whether you leave confident or fearful. Words absolutely matter.
 
Kenny Perry said he spent the early morning hours after the Masters driving around in his car for three hours, contemplating what happened at Augusta National. He formulated an interpretation of the experience.
 
I wouldnt consider it choking, Perry said. I was nervous, yes. But I was enjoying it. I was actually thriving on it more than I ever have in the past. So I havent beaten myself up much about this deal. I really havent. Ive enjoyed it. To me, its given me a shot of confidence more than it has deterred me from getting after it more.
 
Thats what Valiante would call neuro-linguistic programming.
 
In the end, what matters is how much Perry believes those words.
 
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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.