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Saturday, 1 July 2017

Loosen Up That Girdle!

Michelle Wie seems like a nice gal. But nobody did her any favours coming up. She was a prodigious talent, with the physical skills to possibly dominate the women's game. But she wasn't allowed to develop those physical skills, and learn the much more important mental skills, required to be a consistent winner. She never learned to win.

She was done no favours by being allowed to try to beat the men before she'd learned to beat the women. She was done no favours by Nike, who gave her all that cash before she'd really done anything in the game. It worked for Tiger, but he was different. He'd been a proven and consistent winner at every level before turning pro. He was ready.

I see she has been playing pretty well lately. But she isn't seemingly ever going to be a dominant player. That train has likely already left the station. I was happy to see her win a Major. I'm happy any time she manages to win. But, for Michelle, winning is hard. Yesterday, at the KPMG event, she said in a post-round interview that she had played well but didn't make any putts. Funny that: you hear the same thing every day in countless clubhouses over a pint of beer.

You hear players talking about how they coulda, shoulda, or woulda played well if only they'd made more putts. This, as though putting was not as important a reflection upon your ability as a golfer as hitting great drives, or towering four irons. But the fact is that putting is, like it or not, one of the biggest parts of the game. If you can't putt, you're not really a good golfer. If you can't putt, according to Bobby Jones, you had better learn. 

I watched Michelle hitting balls earlier today. She looks so stiff, so rigid, and so tight. There's no flow to her swing. I remarked on Twitter that she looked like a cat in a hot tin roof. She's so obviously trying to force the ball to obey, rather than letting it go. I wish she could just relax a little and trust her swing and the club to do a bit more of the work. She's an obvious talent, if she'd only get out if her own way a bit.

To watch her on the greens is often painful. Michelle looks so uncomfortable. She looks so mechanical. She always looks to me like she's not trying to make putts; she's trying not to miss them. You can't putt well with that approach. You can't play golf trying not to do anything.

I bet you Bobby Jones would offer Michelle some excellent advice. On the putting green, he'd tell her to pick her line and speed, then just make a committed stroke; and let the damned ball go hang if it wants to. In the long game, I'm sure he'd tell her to relax. Tight muscles just don't perform well in golf. 

It's obvious that Michelle Wie is no quitter. She's a hard worker. And she probably still loves the game; because Nike saw to it that she could retire any time she wanted to. I think she's also a nice person. The other players seem to genuinely like her.

If I could advise her--and I know full well there's no reason she should listen to the likes of me--I'd tell her to relax and have fun. She's won her Major. She's probably never going to be the best player out there. But she's pretty darned good. And she's not going to win more often by trying harder. That's pretty obvious. I think she might actually win more often by trying a bit less. 

She needs to get the advice Stewart Maiden once sent Bobby Jones in a telegram: "Hit 'em hard. They'll land somewhere." That applies on the putting green as much as on the tee. As the Babe might have told her, she should just "loosen up that girdle and give it a rip"!