Listen up, squirt! If you’re fixing to be the next Tiger Woods or Greg Norman, Aussie pro Peter Lonard has a word of advice: Don’t be a wuss. Lonard dished the tough-love tip yesterday at the Australian PGA, saying the game’s elite players have become too reliant on the likes of psychologists, yoga instructors and mystical gurus. "With all those people helping, you don't want to make players wussy. They've got to be tough and do it themselves," Lonard said. "Obviously, it's a fine line. Some guys improve with help. Others get worse because of too much input and too much rubbish to worry about which doesn't have a whole lot to do with playing golf." Lonard has never had a particularly sunny disposition. (After finding himself a couple shots off the lead after the second round of the 2007 Players Championship, he told reporters, “Well, if I had a psychologist I would say my glass is half full, but if I was a pessimistic individual like I am, I'd say the other way.”) But he’s right about the preponderance of pep teams in the pro game. Stroll the range at any Tour event and, for better or for worse, you’ll find players encircled by packs of supporters — coaches, trainers, even the odd masseuse.
Clearly not all Tour pros share Lonard's skepticism. Stewart Cink regularly speaks with psychologist Preston Waddington. Cink hired Waddington seven years ago because he could barely face the pressure of teeing it up on Tour. “I’m a nervous wreck before I play,” he told Waddington, according to a 2007 interview in our magazine.
Robert Allenby, long plagued by a fiery temper, now works with “lifestyle coach” Peter Crone, whose web site warns: “LISTENING TO PETER MAY SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR EGO AND INSPIRE UNUSUAL SENSATIONS OF FUN, VITALITY AND HAPPINESS.” And birdies, it seems. Since teaming with Crone, Allenby has resuscitated his game and climbed (quite happily) to 27th in the world.
Then there’s Phil Mickelson, perhaps the game’s most psychologically intriguing player. Mickelson doesn’t work regularly with a shrink — at least not that we know of — but he’s clearly a believer in the practice. He majored in psychology at Arizona State.