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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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.