TEED OFF
By Robert Bicknell
 

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May 20, 2007

What a difference changing teachers makesÖor does it?

Tiger Woods dumped Butch Harmon when things werenít going well and bounced back under the advice of Hank Haney.

Mickelson dumps his former teacher Rick Smith, switches to Tiger Woodís old teacher Butch Harmon, then amazingly begins winning again.

Much of the same ado was made when Nick Faldo dominated the golf world and resulted in David Leadbetter being named the latest "guru" with all the answers.

However, while a lot of people would like to assume that these teachers have some magical ability to create winners from losers, the fact of the matter is that there is nothing magical about it, unless you consider "resonance" to be magical, which is also a possibility.

Harmon, Smith, Ledbetter and the like are acknowledged to be some of the best teachers in the world, that is beyond argument. Yet, it isnít because they have some mystical knowledge or made a deal with the devil.

What separates good teachers from great teachers is not just a better understanding of golf swing mechanics, or a keen eye, because high-speed cameras and V1 coaching software can compensate for that.

No, the most important characteristic is the ability to communicate the ideas and concepts to the player in such a way that it strikes a chord of truth in the playerís head.

I.e., "resonance".

No matter how good a teacher is, if he cannot get the player to understand what he has to do, and more importantly, to trust the teacher enough to give up his old tried and true ways, then the teacher has almost zero chance of success.

One big advantage the top teachers have is that new students already have belief in the teacherís abilities, otherwise they wouldnít have paid an astronomical amount of money to take his classes, so the issue of trust has already been addressed.

Of course, if the teacher doesnít produce results, that trust will be lost very quickly because golfers are a very fickle bunch of people.

The fact of the matter is that Smith didnít win three majors and 20 other wins, Mickelson did that. Then, he won The Players. Harmon didnít win it for him either.

The player is ultimately the one who has to hit the shots and deal with the internal pressures during a tournament. What shots they choose, what strategy they follow and what chances they are willing to take is just as important as any refinements they mightíve made to their swing during the last month or so.

Harmon did help Mickelson regain his confidence while tightening up his swing a bit to increase control. This is something Smith was unable to do, not because heís a poor teacher, but rather because he had been with the player for a long time already and the results just werenít there anymore.

A few years ago, I commented that Mickelson was a moron because he was constantly looking to gain more distance off the tee, despite already hitting 300-yard drives when necessary. By lengthening his swing arc, he produced more distance, but also increased the window of opportunity for things to go wrong.

Yet, he stubbornly clung to the belief he needed more length, while, in reality, Mickelsonís strength was always his short game. So, its no surprise that Harmon immediately worked to restore the control factor.

If Mickelson really wants more length, all he has to do is stay with the square-head drivers which he claims are giving him 20 more yards off the tee. With a tighter swing, he should be able to keep it in play more often as well.

The only problem with those clubs is that it is very difficult to "work" the ball.

During any tournament, a pro will have to hit a variety of shots, such has high fades which land like a butterfly with sore feet, draw shots around trees, low shots out of trees and the like. Mickelson can hit those shots whenever he wants, provided he feels confident in the odds of pulling it off.

If Harmon has restored Mickelsonís faith in himself, then he has done his job and Mickelson made the right choice.


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