George Brett on his short-game woes, his winning week at Pebble, and the art of hitting (a golf ball)

George Brett on his short-game woes, his winning week at Pebble, and the art of hitting (a golf ball)

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Since retiring from baseball in 1993, Brett has worked on honing his other swing.
G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images

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.


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