Stewart Cinks victory at the British Open gives Pickens back-to-back assists in the major championship season. He also works with Lucas Glover, winner of the U.S. Open. Overall, thats three major championship teams Pickens has been part of since leaving the nest as a student under Bob Rotella and jumping into the mind coaching business. He also works with Zach Johnson, winner of the Masters in 2007.
A graduate of Clemson University, Pickens is based at Sea Island Golf Club in Georgia, where his clients include Charles Warren, the original link who led to connections with Glover, Johnson and Cink.
Senior writer Randall Mell caught up with Pickens this week for a quick round:
As a shrink, youre actually getting large now, arent you? Has your phone stopped ringing since Stewart Cinks victory?
After something like this, you become smarter overnight.
Your major championship winners have something in common. They both denied sentimental favorites. Glover denied Phil Mickelson and David Duval. Cink denied Tom Watson. Your boys both won when it seemed like everyone wanted somebody else to win. Have you had to talk to them about that?
They both understand the feelings. Would Stewart have been pulling for Tom Watson to win if he were watching the playoff? Probably so. Would Lucas have been pulling for Phil Mickelson or David Duval if he were watching them in that situation? Probably. But it didnt matter who Stewart and Lucas were with out there. They were playing the golf course. Stewart was playing Turnberry, Lucas was playing Bethpage.
Thats something we talk about and work on. Thats what Stewart and I talked about all week at Turnberry. Keep playing Turnberry, keep playing Turnberry, keep playing Turnberry. With Lucas and Stewart, we werent talking about winning the U.S. Open or winning the British Open. We talked about playing Bethpage and playing Turnberry.
Stewart knew who the other guy was in the playoff, but when Watson finished, Stewart wasnt thinking, `I have to play Tom Watson. He was thinking, `I have to play No. 5, the first playoff hole. He wasnt thinking, `Ive got to win the British Open. He was thinking, `Ive got to play No. 5.
You started working with Stewart at The Players Championship. What was he looking for from you?
He wanted help with his putting. He wanted to return to his putting form in 04, when he putted really well. He had gotten away from what he was doing. He wasnt thinking good on the greens. His routines werent consistent. He didnt practice it much, and so he basically wanted to overhaul his putting. He even changed from the long putter he was using to a short putter, but that was his decision. He didnt ask me what I thought of the switch. He said, `Im going with the short putter and I want you to help me with the thought process.
Developing a consistent routine was part of that. When you watched him at the British Open, what were you looking for?
I was looking to see, physically, if he were doing the things we worked on. How many steps? How many practice strokes? How long is he holding his look? You can get a sense if hes having other thoughts in his head. Those were the things I was looking for. Watching on TV, I didnt get to see all his shots, but what I saw from 17 and 18 and through the last four holes of the playoff, he didnt miss one step, one look in his routine, they were all right on cue. He didnt speed up or slow down or make it too important.
I was also watching to see if was getting too emotional.
A lot of people, every putt is for a result. The closer you get to the hole, the more you get score conscious. This putt is for a birdie, or to get up and down, or to get the lead. We try to take the putting for something out of it. Whether its a five footer for eagle or a five footer for double bogey, its still the same putt. That way you can make them all the same. It becomes a physical putt, not an emotional putt. The more you can make putting a physical act rather than an emotional act, the more you can make them all the same.
I also watched to see how he was talking about putts to himself. Its something we work on, and I could tell he was into describing the putt to himself. There were a couple times where I could literally see him mouthing to himself what the putt was going to do. Its a big thing.
Why is that a big thing?
Most people putt emotionally, and I dont think thats a good thing. When you listen to Tiger Woods talk about his putting, when he talked about the putts he made when he won the U.S. Open last year, he talked about how he knew what the putts were going to do. The putt he made to get into the playoff, he knew what that putt was for, but he was totally into how the putt was two balls out.
Stewart was part of that debacle at the 72nd hole at the 2001 U.S. Open at Southern Hills, when he missed a short putt and missed out on a playoff. He came back from that admirably. You ever talk about that failure.
No, hes never brought it up. It was a cruel lesson about not playing someone and not playing for something, but how you just keep playing the course. In 01, he quit playing the course and started playing the outcome. At the British Open, even at the end of the playoff, when he was way up, he kept playing the course.
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