I had the chipping yips really bad a few years back. I worked at it and got to the point where I could hit a few good ones, then chunk it, then skull it. I got so frustrated. It was all in my head. If I knew I was going to play on a certain day, within three minutes of waking up I'd start thinking, Oh God, I have to chip today. Then I found out that when you don't pick up a club for three weeks, those demons leave you. I'm not playing Ping-Pong around the greens anymore.
I love practice as much as I love playing. I live less than a mile from my club [Mission Hills, near Kansas City], so if I have an hour to spare, I jump on my Vespa with my clubs and go practice.
If it's hot and humid, just practice your short game. You get all lathered up hitting balls on the range.
In 1987 I played in the AT&T with Freddie Couples and we won. The only thing I can say about my game back then was that there were brief very brief flashes of brilliance, but no consistency. Winning the AT&T wasn't anything like winning the World Series, but playing in it was just as nerveracking. People expect you to be good, and when you don't know where it's going when you hit it, when you three-putt from five feet, or hit a flop shot 150 yards over the green, that's nerve-racking.
I don't enjoy competitive golf. When they put up the ropes and you have to putt out two-footers with a little break, that's not fun.
When I'm home in Kansas City, we play Mission Hills. It's just four hours with friends, and the conversations range from investments, baseball, golf, wine, restaurants, recipes, politics, anything. In the winter, we drink our coffee and ask each other stuff like, "So, do you want to go play cards? Or do you want to go to Costco?"
Charlie Lau was my hitting coach, and he was a golfer. He always stressed that the baseball swing and golf swing were similar, just on a different plane. Until they came up with that stack and tilt thing, it was club back, weight goes back, and at point of contact feel the weight shift to your front leg. That's what Charlie always said.
I love watching golf on TV. You'll never see a Tour player on TV who isn't fully extended at contact. Just like baseball, they hold the club in their fingers, not in the palm. They take a firm grip but they don't choke the club, because that creates tension in your hands and arms.
Whether it's baseball or golf, when you're playing great you don't have to think about fundamentals. There are no negatives you just hit the ball.
One day at Carnoustie, on a par-4 into the wind, I hit driver, 3-wood, 5-iron and was still short of the green. I thought, God, this is going to be fun! I love links golf. The Old Course is one of my favorites. When you know it's 180 yards and your caddie tells you to hit it 160 and let it bounce up, you hit it 160 and let it bounce up. He knows what he's talking about.
My handicap got lower incrementally. I didn't have a big breakthrough. I never really paid attention to it you turn in your scores and the next thing you know you're a 9. Then you're a 7. I went to Lyford Cay in the Bahamas after Thanksgiving last year. Shot one over the first day, 75 the next. Then I didn't play at all, went to Hawaii for Christmas with my family, shot 73 one day, 75 the next. Next thing you know you're a 3 handicap.
I'm not sure why I'm playing so well right now. I guess it's just something I figured out. I keep the ball in play and hit a lot of greens. I still worry about my short game. Sometimes I'll be 20 feet off the green and I'll putt it. Sure, it might take me three to get down, but if I chip it it might take me four.