Friday, January 09, 2009

KAPALUA, Hawaii -- The more you listen to the players talk at the Mercedes Championship (and check out their scores), the more apparent it becomes that an obsession with swing mechanics is a golfer's third worst enemy, behind lousy weather and sciatica.
Daniel Chopra won last year's Mercedes and then began trying to remake his swing. Maybe it's the right move (Tiger's swing changes haven't produced immediate results, either), maybe it's not. The thing is Chopra's only top-10 finish of 2008 came at Kapalua, and he shot 79 in the first round here Thursday.
Justin Leonard went off the rails when he decided to switch coaches, to Butch Harmon, and alter his action in an effort to get longer off the tee. It backfired when he dropped to 109th on the money list in 2006. Only after he returned to his old coach Randy Smith did Leonard resurrect his game, winning the 2007 Texas Open and 2008 Stanford St. Jude Championship. He also reclaimed a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team last year, and played extremely well.
Then there's Davis Love III, who admitted a bout of paralysis by analysis after his opening-round 69 on Thursday.
"For a couple of years I got to working so hard on my swing, I couldn't play," Love said. "The [2007] British Open, I played really bad and sat down with [psychologist] Bob Rotella and said, 'What am I doing?' He said, 'You're working out to play better, you're pounding balls to play better, and everything in your life is to play better. That isn't Davis Love. Davis Love would go snowboarding for two weeks and know that he was going to play good when he came back from snowboarding.' He said, 'You've got it completely backwards.'"
Love went on to reference Tom Kite, who "hit that one bad shot to the right at Oak Hill, and he said, 'I'm never going to hit one to the right again.' ... I got into that trap of, 'I'm going to be perfect, I'm going to work so hard I'm never going to hit it bad again,' and got wrapped up in mechanics."
And so to prepare for Kapalua, Love went snowboarding. Lo and behold, he's playing well. Once again, life imitates Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) in the movie Bull Durham: "Don't think, Meat."
      

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