Dont Think About It

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RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Its all in the head. Or, in this case, la tte. Patricia Meunier-LeBouc became the first major champion of 2003 -- thanks largely to her mind. The native of France has a laissez-faire attitude that keeps her from getting rattled under pressure. Actually, she rarely gets rattled at any time.
 
Meunier-LeBoucs approach to golf comes from the school of pop-rocker Cyndi Lauper: Girls just want to have fun. Patricia has put things into the proper perspective. She is constantly upbeat, happy and smiling. How could I not be? she asks rhetorically. Im out here playing golf for a living, in beautiful sunshine, with the best player in the world.
 
Meunier-LeBouc played her last six rounds of competitive golf alongside that best player, Annika Sorenstam. She admitted to getting a bit nervous Saturday afternoon at the Kraft Nabisco, when she built a short-lived five-stroke lead. Then, starting Sundays final round with a three-stroke lead over Annika, Patricia admitted she wasnt entirely comfortable and was playing a bit shy.
 
The problem: she started thinking. The mind is a terrible thing to waste. As Patricia started to look ahead ' to think about what winning this LPGA major championship would mean ' she lost her lead. Then, she says, she got comfortable again.
 
One never really knows whats going on inside the mind of the stoic Sorenstam; but immediately after she took the lead with a birdie on the 12th hole Sunday, she made two uncharacteristic mistakes on the next two holes. Did she let thoughts of a possible, record, third-straight Kraft Nabisco Championship creep into her Hall of Fame brain?
 
While Annika was apparently losing the battle with her own personal demons, Meunier-LeBouc was back playing her own game, smiling, walking jauntily up the fairways, as if she were simply strolling on a Sunday afternoon along the Champs Elysee.
 
As Sorenstam went bogey-bogey, Patricia went birdie-par. Within thirty minutes, the 30-year-old Frenchwoman went from one stroke behind to two ahead.
 
Meunier-LeBouc talks of never letting negative thoughts sneak into her head on the golf course. If there is a cavernous bunker guarding her approach to the green, she doesnt think, Oh, no, I cant hit it in there. Instead, she tells herself, So, whats the big deal if I hit it in the bunker? All I have to do next is get it up and down to save par. Add in the confidence she has developed through years of practice and competition on the European LPGA tour, and it becomes quite easy to swing freely and execute the shots.
 
At this extremely high level of competition, the players in contention are virtually equal in talent and ability. It is the brain that often separates the champions from the hopefuls.
 
Dont be surprised if Meunier-LeBouc appears often in these major championship battles ' and prevails. When asked about proving she can beat the best players in the world, she responded I think it proves I am one of the best, yes? Confidence defeats intimidation.
 
Yes, the mind may be the most important tool in any golfers bag. To quote word-smith Yogi Berra, 99 percent of the game is mental; the other half is physical.