Inside the Ropes – Feb. 2010

February 17, 2010

Hello friends,

It’s been a while since I last wrote.  I am currently writing from my room at the Fairmont Mayakoba near Cancun, Mexico.  I am here competing in the Mayakoba Classic, the only PGA Tour Event in Mexico.

Today was pro-am day.  Since I wasn’t in the pro-am, I decided to get up early and play nine holes at 6 am.  I like to have two looks at a course before competing, but I was able to see the course 1 and ½ times over the past two days.  This is my first time here.   I got the word late Sunday night that I was in the field, quickly booked a flight from LAX to Cancun, left Monday afternoon and arrived Tuesday at 5am.  It’s been a long time since I’ve flown through the night.  Thank God they’ve got a good masseuse here!!!

I played nine holes this morning with Dean Wilson (Stack and Tilt) and Frank Lickliter (not working with anyone at the present).  We had a lot of fun.  Dean and I had played a practice round together in Industry Hills for the LA Open qualifier two weeks ago.   Dean knows my stand on Stack and Tilt.  I believe that any swing style that produces dynamic impact is good.  Dean’s a prime example of one who produces dynamic impact.  He hits the ball quite straight.  Frank kept saying I can’t believe how long I am, but the fairways were rolling and I hit everyone this morning.   He discussed how he had tried to change his swing and go away from being the fader he’s been his whole life, to drawing the ball.  He had once been able to eliminate the left side of the course, but the moment he changed his swing, he could miss the ball both directions.  He went from a consistent top 50 player on the PGA Tour to losing his card.  Now he’s trying to work his way back.

I’ve been hanging around a bunch of the guys on Tour the past couple of days.  There’s a lot of talk about Tiger, seems the guys are all piecing together clues as to where he is and where he’s been.  They are genuinely interested.  Everyone recognizes what a positive impact he’s had on the tour and it seems everyone wants him back.  Most everyone has been floored by all the stories, but all agree it has no business being in the public media.  This is his personal life, though I’m not condoning his actions, but it doesn’t belong in the media!!!  The golf media has pretty much left him alone, but other media are on a frenzy.  Knowing Tiger like I do and knowing so much about him through others on Tour, I always thought he’ll be back playing soon.   I was surprised when I ran into his press advisor, Mark Soltau at Pebble and Mark didn’t know if Tiger would be playing the Masters.  Tiger is all about the majors, he won’t miss that.

I just heard he’ll host a press conference in two days from the PGA Tour headquarters.  It’s no surprise to me that he won’t be taking questions, only making statements.  My best guess also is that he and Elin are working things out, probably in heavy counseling, Tiger will most likely take full accountability for his misdoings and really work on building the trust back with Elin.  It will take a long time, though!   I think she’ll stick with him enough to give him a second chance.

Enough on Tiger.  I had lunch with Jim McClean yesterday. Jim has a teaching academy at the host course, the El Camaleon Golf Club, and is in town for the tournament.  He and I became friends when I was 13 years old when Jim was spending a lot of time at Quail Lodge in Carmel, CA.  He would work with Ben Doyle some, play a bunch of mini-tour events and hang with some of the peninsula’s local touring pros.  I’ve always liked Jim and admire the way he has built his teaching.  He now has 9 academies.

He told me that he’s been in touch with my co-author, Andy Brumer, lately and that he really enjoyed reading the Impact Zone.  He then introduced me to his lead instructor at the academy.  Then today, I witnessed his lead instructor working with Pablo Martin, the young Spaniard who had such a good college career at Oklahoma State, then returned to play the European Tour.  Pablo won earlier this year on the European Tour but was in a lengthy slump after turning pro.

Pablo was working on an interesting drill.  In fact, some other pros who were practicing next to me said, “hey Bobby, check this out!”  Pablo had placed several tees in front of the ball, one three, six and nine feet in front.  He had wrist weights strapped to his wrist.  He would hold a golf ball, make a hard swing, try to delay the release as long as possible while aiming his hands at the tee six feet in front of the ball.  He would then release the ball to the ground in front of the imaginary ball placement.  He was obviously working on lagging the load and the aiming point but had come up with a unique drill to make it work.

I can’t tell you how many pros I’ve talked to who have mentioned the Impact Zone to me, that they have really enjoyed the book.  Many of them comment on how they have learned the same lesson as me; that is, your impact is far more important than your swing style.   They have also mentioned that many of their coaches have also loved the book.  More and more players are getting rid of swing style changes and spending more time on creating better and more consistent impact.  It’s gratifying to me to see the book making such a difference.

I had a good day of practice today.  I’ve been working harder on my short game.  I have two new wedges in my bag from Taylor Made, I had them grinded at the factory on my last visit a few weeks ago.  They are the new replaceable groove wedges.  My 60 degree has much of the bounce shaved off.  I got that tip from Ken Venturi.  That, I find, is especially helpful playing off of Paspallum grass here in Mexico.   In Pebble Beach, where the tour was playing last week, more bounce was needed on the wedges to keep them from digging in the wet slop.  (Pebble has had a lot of rain lately).  I’m working on some other wedges for those type of conditions.

I’ve also been working hard on my putting.  I’m back to a 34-inch putter (The Yes Dawn).  I tried a short 29-inch putter in practice last week, as I could get my eyes positioned over the ball with a shorter putter, but found I could square the face up better with a 34-inch putter.  I’ve been working profusely on getting the face lined up square to my intended line at address and building a stroke to square the face up at impact.  My whole career I’ve aimed left.  It’s getting much better.  Howard Twitty took a look at my stroke last November during Q-School and has helped me get lined up correctly.  I’ve bought putting carpets for my home.  I’ve placed both a straight line on the carpet between the center of each hole on each end and placed string immediately above the line on the carpet.  Doing both has really helped with alignment and rebuilding my stroke.

I’ve also spent some time watching the new Sybervision video this week which I now have with me.   I find that the Muscle Memory Programming portion has helped me to get a clearer picture of my swing in my mind. Plus it’s relaxing to view, almost spiritual in a way.

So, I’m both excited and slightly nervous about tomorrow.  It’s good to get back in the ring after over a 3-month lay-off.  66 days to 50, but who’s counting!



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