Posts Tagged 'golf'

Golf’s marathon weeks

After a bit of adventurous travelling the England Teams have arrived at their respective venues. England Boys had a bit of trouble with the air traffic controls and ended up arriving in Turkey at 2 o’clock in the morning. Tommy Fleetwood perhaps had the most challenging journey as he traveled via Paris where he competed in the French Open at Golf National. Only a water visit on the 18th on the second day kept Tommy from playing over the weekend and this meant that he could travel back to Heathrow on the Saturday morning and catch up with the rest of the England Team on their flight out to Stockholm, Sweden.

Tommy came to Stockholm with a bit of a lesson learned in the noble art of not giving up. Tommy played the first two rounds with Mark Foster who started out with a not so impressive 76. One day and another 63 (!) shots later though he was right back in the mix for the event. Mark shot 70 in the third round and as I write this he is 4 under in a tied for 6th in the final round. That is a performance of a true professional!

The European Championships, Boys and Men, start on Tuesday in Turkey and Sweden. If you want to follow the boys then go to Brian Roake’s excellent England Boys News. The men I will try to keep track of here and of course you can follow the official scoring etc by clicking here.

What it takes…

Wednesday and generally a bit of an “off” day in the competitive golf community. On tour this day is reserved for those that make the party possible – the sponsors – who all compete and enjoy themselves in the Pro-Am. For the players that is probably not the most productive day as I am sure they would rather be preparing and practicing. At the same time they are very well aware that if it was not for this day their pay checks would look very different. The amateur schedule nowadays is not very different from the professional one. Big amateur events tend to be played Thursday to Sunday or perhaps Friday to Sunday with a 36 hole final on the last day. The times of working a full week to then be able to compete on the weekend are more or less gone.

On a Wednesday like this I take a bit of time to look through the results of the recent tournaments. Two names stand out: Luke Donald (great diary if you click the link!) and Andy Sullivan. Luke had not won in a while and he has been through a bit of a difficult period with an injury that took longer than expected to come back from. Today he is playing the Pro-Am in Wales having come fresh off a great win in Madrid and an excellent second finish at Wentworth. Andy Sullivan is the player who seems to be winning everything, with a margin, in and around the Midlands. In more nation wide events he has, so far, found it a bit more difficult. Perhaps winning the Lagonda is a step in the right direction that might open the gates for him?

The question of what it takes to win is one of those discussions that can and will go on forever. I think it is something that needs practice just like driving, chipping and putting. Very often we hear things like “he can’t close a match” or “he bottled it down the last” but way too seldom do we really go into the kind of practice we could do to stop this from happening. Pressure is difficult to create or simulate but a little pressure is better than no pressure so there is every reason to try. When I grew up the competitions for ice-cream around the putting green at the golf club were just as important and full of pressure as any real competition. We need more of that stuff and we need players and coaches that are creative enough to come up with exciting and challenging activities!

Golf’s X-factor

There are not many opportunities across the World nowadays, but when the few National Open Championships that still do so open up their locks for the qualifying it is something very special. The slim chance of teeing it up in one of these events serves as an inspiration to many a player and the fact that surprise names regularly come through to grab their chance means that more will seek the opportunity next time. This last Monday it was the Open across the ocean that had its European version of its own X-factor and boy were there some dreams that came true!
James Morrison, a very recent winner on the European Tour and a previous member of the England Squads booked his journey to America, as did Swede Rikard Karlberg. Most would now go ‘Who?’ which is perfectly understandable. Rikard is 1118 in the world rankings and spends most of his time on the Asian Tour where he is a rookie this year. His career earnings are about £100,000 and in a nutshell he is the beauty of all qualifiers. For every Rikard there are 1117 players in front of him and quite a few behind him that are going to go –
‘Wow! Just wait until next time. Then it is my turn!’

Respect!

Yesterday the female number one player in the World, Lorena Ochoa, grew another inch at least in my eyes. Playing in her home country she announced that she is to retire from golf following next week’s event. Retirement itself I guess is not all that impressive but the way she does it is. Lorena simply says that she has done what she wanted to do, reached the goals that she had, so in very simple terms – that’s it! What else is there to do? She now has a number of other goals that she wants to reach but they do not involve playing competitive golf around the globe. She wants to be home, with her family. She wants to start a family of her own and she wants to work on her foundation. 10 years on the LPGA was what she had always planned and to Lorena Ochoa taking the next step does not seem to be a dramatic move at all.

Do check out the transcript of the LPGA press conference with Lorena. It is excellent!

In form?

The PGA Tour is back at Bay Hill this week. As is customary the leaderboard is full of top class players. I guess many of them live just around the corner from Bay Hill so I am sure it is a good week for them to play. One that don’t, as he live on the West Coast, is Phil Mickelson. Just before he left for Orlando Phil apparently shot 58 around his home course. Not a bad round… Of course that home course is not like Bay Hill, set up to welcome the world’s best for a week, but still it should give some sort of indication to whether Phil is in form or not. It is the classic discussion about if it is at all possible to make predictions in golf. If you run 400m and one day break your personal best then I would think that you very seldom come out a few days after that and run 2 seconds slower. In golf that seems to happen all the time. Henrik Stenson shot 67 the first round at Bay Hill. And then followed up with a 78 to almost miss the cut. Anyone that has ever played competitive golf knows that happens. You have to wonder why it is so difficult to get away from though.

Phil Mickelson? Well, with 71-67 he is one shot of the pace going into the weekend!

Double working

I read a note about Michelle Wie just recently. Having more or less just landed in Dubai for the Dubai Ladies Masters she came off the longest flight she had ever taken, San Fransisco – Dubai, to let everybody know that “it had all been amazing and she had loved everything so far”. Then she went on to talk about how she had only had three hours of sleep the night before due to her studies in media and communications. I would say this young woman deserves some credit. How many young boys or girls with her talent and potential would still be in school? Many with a lot lesser possibilities lined up for them leave school many years before 20. Will Michelle Wie become a better golfer because she is still in school? I have no idea. Will she have a richer life? Guaranteed!

I have just posted December’s Monthly letter so if you are interested in it, check out the Monthly section on the right!

A sense of the Olympics

Team England in the World Cup

Two rounds have been played in this year’s World Cup of Golf out in Mission Hills, China. The Irish Team with Rory McIlroy and Graham McDowell have taken the lead in front of the defending champions, Stenson and Karlsson from Sweden. England with Ross Fisher and Ian Poulter are steady going, so far in 6th place. Team USA with Nick Watney and John Merrick are way down the list which I guess is not all that surprising considering that most of the American players would rather be at home celebrating Thanksgiving than out in China representing their country. Hat off to Watney and Merrick for at least making the journey.

I could not help smiling when I saw the logo for this year’s World Cup. A well designed player with all the flags, the trophy and then the punch line – “For the honour”. A bit of wishful thinking there I think but it would be great if that was true. Is it not time now, in light of the Olympics, to really do something with this event? Two players per country, or more if they are all top 15 in the World, will be competing in the Olympic Games in 2016. We have six years and another five World Cups to sort this out. Had it not been for the time of the year, the venue (Mission Hills every year for the foreseeable future!) and the lack of national involvement the World Cup could have been a great build up to the Olympics. For the honour – anyone?

Outliers

I picked up a new book today. One that I have had my eyes on for some time but not yet come around to reading. Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.  An “Outlier”, according to Gladwell, is a scientific term to describe things or phenomena that lie outside normal experience. This can for example be people who perform tasks or roles that lie way outside what most of us can comprehend, such as a World Class athlete in a sport. In the first chapter Gladwell hits me with what I kind of already know, but never really would like to admit. He has looked into the background of the most successful players on high performing teams, in the league as well as nationally in a few different sports and a number of different countries. Without a shadow of a doubt he manages to show that what we believe is somebody that has made it to where he or she is thanks to talent, hard work and ambition is actually something completely different. Why would there otherwise be such a huge over representation of people born early in the year in these teams? Gladwell argues that in fact what we see is a classic example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. We pick athletes at an early age because they are better than their peers. More often than not though the reason to why they are better is simple that they are older (=born nearer the cut off date for the applicable age) and therefore more developed. Once these youngsters are picked they are given more opportunities, better coaching and more resources and guess what happens? They leave their peers behind and what we thought was going to be the case is now a reality.

That is some pretty serious stuff to chew. Facts are though that in most sports, as well as in education, we disqualify people because of the time of the year in which they are born. What a waste of talent that is!

Behind the scenes

A couple of days ago I spent some time with a very successful coach from another sport whose job is now to support a variety of different sports. It was no surprise that we came to talk about the process of reviewing performance and how we find out what to work on in order to improve this performance. Everytime I speak to anybody from another sport about this I get this feeling that we golfers just have not thought this through. It is not that we do not try. Lessons with coaches, scorecards and statistical analysis software are all valuable tools in finding the key to improvement. But when you see things like the combination of video and computer analysis (http://www.prozonesports.com/index.html) used in team sports and the kind of information that can come out of that you go – oh, maybe we are not that advanced after all.

One big issue in golf is how to capture performance. Stats in golf is often thought to be the ‘be all and end all’ when it comes to recording performance. Some methods certainly are a lot better than others but the problem for all of them is that they are only descriptive – they will only tell what happened and not why and under which conditions. That is what the video does in football.

When we video in golf we tend to do it of the golf swing, a tiny little part of the performance. What we should be spending a lot more time on is capturing the whole performance, i.e. I) what were the tactics (course management) like? II) what made you make the decisions you made? III) would you make the same decision again, and if not what would be a better one? IV) did you execute your decision in the way you wanted, and if not how would you change? V) were there any correct decisions that you could not execute, i.e. are there technical limitations that you could do with working on?

In all of these questions feedback is needed to improve. Where can we get the feedback? Well, if your coach is not there then the only way will have to be to get somebody to carry a video camera and follow every shot. And in today’s day and age – that is actually not that difficult!

The world’s library

While the players are warming up for the Walker Cup at everywhere from the Buckingham Palace to Pine Valley I have been busy trying to summarise my impressions from the talent development course I attended last week. In doing so I discovered something that looks way too good to be true. Deborah Meaden of the Dragon’s Den usually says that if that is what something looks like – it normally is too good to be true. And I guess that is why the World’s book publishers and authors still cannot make their mind up whether to love or sue Google for their gigantic book project. Of course I am talking about Google Books which could virtually put the whole World’s library at your fingertips. Will it cause us to by less books? Or will it perhaps give us the taster we need to go out and buy the ones that we otherwise would not have known about? Try to figure that out… All I know is that the information and knowledge that sits their waiting is absolutely incredible! Check it out: http://books.google.com/

And by the way – what a great winner the European Tour had last week. Alex Norén certainly deserved his first win. Not many players on tour combine tremendous talent with hard work the way he does. Usually, it pays of in the end…


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