Press Pass A Coachs Worth Popularity Contest

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Press PassEach week, GOLF CHANNEL experts and analysts offer their thoughts and opinions on hot topics in the world of golf with the Press Pass.
 
Hot Topic
This week is the EDS Byron Nelson Championship. What is your favorite memory of the late Byron Nelson?
 
Brian Hewitt Brian Hewitt - Columnist, GOLFCHANNEL.com:
That's easy. It was interviewing Nelson, in his late 80s at the time, while Nelson sat for a haircut with his regular barber, Shelton Givens, in downtown Fort Worth. Nelson fussed while the photographer worked on the lighting. But once we started talking he would have sat there all day long. His recall staggered the imagination. Oh, and there was the matter of him driving by himself, in his own car, from his farm to downtown Fort Worth for the interview. He parallel parked on the street, fed the meter, got out of his car and walked, with his cane, into Shelton's establishment.
 
Steve Sands Steve Sands - Reporter, GOLF CHANNEL:
I met Mr. Nelson for the first time at his event in 2002. It was amazing to watch how gentle he was and how much time he took for almost everyone. Each day I'd watch strangers walk away from shaking his hand with a smile on their face. He was always friendly.
 
Mark Rolfing Mark Rolfing - Analyst, GOLF CHANNEL:
In 1996 I was working for ABC, which covered Byrons tournament. After Phil Mickelson won that year I emceed the awards ceremony with Phil and Mr. Nelson. While we were waiting to go back on the air, Mr. Nelson looked at me and said I think you are a wonderful golf announcer. Ill never forget that.
 
Mercer Baggs Mercer Baggs - Senior Producer, GOLFCHANNEL.com:
I never had the honor to meet Mr. Nelson in a one-on-one setting, but I did attend his 2001 tournament. I remember thinking how wonderful it was that he watched everyone finish up on 18 and then shook their hands and said a few words to them as they went to sign their scorecards. It didn't matter if it was Tiger Woods or Robert Damron, he treated each player the same and thanked everyone for playing in the tournament.
 
Hot Topic
Phil Mickelson is now working full time with Butch Harmon. How much of a role do instructors play in a players success?
 
Hewitt:
Obviously, it varies from player to player. The key is communication. And that can work in different ways. Some players need a kick in the butt (and want a kick in the butt) and wind up with very good teachers who are too gentlemanly. Other players are very sensitive and don't respond to the occasional tongue-lashing. In short, some players need to be told how good they are and others need to be told how good they ought to be. It's also important for the teacher to determine what kind of stimuli--auditory or visual--the player best responds to. Then there is the familiarity thing. You don't see his name on too many lists, but Henry Reis has been with Annika Sorenstam for 20 years now. And he rarely needs to look at more than five swings to determine the trouble when Annika comes to him with a swing flaw problem. For a player to know that there is that availability is hugely important.
 
Sands:
Whenever I see a player believe in what he's working on with his instructor that confidence seems to translate to his scoring.
 
Rolfing:
I believe the instructors role has increased in this era of new technology. Forty years ago the game was played much more by feel, which is a difficult thing to teach.
 
Baggs:
Instructors are a very important part of the game, but I think many of the younger players rely too heavily on their coaches and become too mechanical in competition. I think a player should know his swing well enough to figure out what is not working on his own -- and should have a coach as an extra set of eyes to help point out any flaws and help fix them.
 
Hot Topic
Speaking of instructors, Justin Roses says that the Englishman will win more majors than Nick Faldo. Will ANY current European-born player win six or more major championships?
 
Hewitt:
Nick Bradley (Rose's coach) has forgotten more about golf than I will ever know. But winning more majors than Nick Faldo means Rose will have to capture seven before his career ends. That's a tall order for anybody. One of the most interesting things about Faldo's record is that of the nine official PGA TOUR events he won, six were major championships. That's a pretty strong percentage. Rose has the goods to win multiple majors but he's still looking for his first.
 
Sands:
No. There could be some Europeans who win multiple majors like Rose or Paul Casey. But with Tiger just 31 years of age, anyone winning six or more in the next 10-15 years is unlikely.
 
Rolfing:
No. First of all there are many more good European players to spread the majors around than during Faldos time. And secondly, Nick did not have to deal with Tiger Woods in his prime.
 
Baggs:
No chance. I'd be very surprised if any of the current crop of European-born players got even half-way to that mark. For one, there is Tiger Woods (and even Phil Mickelson). For another, winning multiple majors is about more than just talent. It takes a great deal of desire to win one major then have the drive to not settle but to want to win more and more and more. I don't think there are 10 players in the world with that drive and the ability to do it.
 
Hot Topic
Lorena Ochoa and company are in Mexico this week. Who is the most popular player in his/her country outside of the U.S.?
 
Hewitt:
Ochoa isn't a bad choice. She has done a lot to raise the level of consciousness of golf in her country. And Seve Ballesteros will always be a sporting icon in Spain. Same with Greg Norman in Australia. Jumbo Ozaki is a cult figure in Japan. But the most popular player in his country, outside of the U.S., is, hands down, Mike Weir in Canada. The Canadians have a passion for golf that is fed by the intensity of their relatively short season. They live and die with Weir's triumphs and defeats. And, add on to that, Weir's equanimity in the face of all this national pressure. We, at GOLF CHANNEL, constantly are asked who the 'good guys' are in golf. Weir is a first ballot top-5 in that category. If he wants to be elected to public office in Canada when his playing days are through, all he has to do is run.
 
Sands:
I've covered the Canadian Open three times and was in Ireland for the WGC-CA Championship and Ryder Cup. Padraig Harrington is huge in his home country, but I have never heard a crowd as loud and warm to a home country hero as Canadians are to Mike Weir. He is a legend who after his Masters win in 2003 was almost as big as Wayne Gretzky in hockey mad Canada.
 
Rolfing:
I really believe it is Lorena Ochoa. Her popularity in Mexico is mind-boggling. Camillo Villegas in Columbia would be a pretty close second.
 
Baggs:
I've never seen anything quite like the LPGA Q-school finals two years ago, when nearly 100 credentialed Japanese media were on hand to witness Ai Miyazato medal. LPGA Q-school normally gets about 10 media members total covering the event. I was told by more than one Japanese writer that she is (at least was at the time) as popular as MLB players Hideki Matsui and Ichiro.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - EDS Byron Nelson Championship
  • Full Coverage - Corona Championship