With the Open and PGA Championships in the books it's off to the Ryder and FedEx Cups for the PGA Tour. The latest exciting news: two play-off wins on the same day. Vijay Singh, who regards Zen Golf as his favorite mental game book, won the Barclays Championship, first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs. Cristie Kerr, with whom Dr. Parent has been working closely since May, won the Safeway for her first victory since the 2007 US Open.
Cristie Kerr’s Victory
The night before Sunday’s final round, Dr. Parent replied to a text from Cristie, who was four strokes off the lead starting the day. He reminded her to keep doing what they had worked on for her routine, to make some birdies, post a number, and see what happens. She birdied 17 and 18 to shoot 65 and post 13 under. Another birdie on 18, the first playoff hole, and she had her first win of the year. Below are some quotes from her interview in the media center after the tournament. At the end, she makes a reference (she calls it an inside joke for Dr. Joe) to the gold statue story in Zen Golf.
INTERVIEWER:If you would, describe your emotions following your first victory since winning the 2007 U.S. Women's Open.
CRISTIE KERR: Oh, I'm just elated. You know, I've put so much work into my game this year with my short game, and I work with a new mental coach, Dr. Joe Parent. He wrote the book Zen Golf. He worked with Vijay when he was on his way to number one. And I'm sure he's very proud of me right now. You know, I've put a lot of work into the mental side of it to be able to contend more often and to give myself every opportunity to not get in my own way basically.
So, did the work you've done on your mental side of the game come in handy today?
CRISTIE KERR: Definitely. No. I mean, definitely. You know, it definitely puts things in perspective because you can put too much emphasis on results and, oh, I have to do this and I have to do that. You know, and instead my approach now is, you know, focus on the process that I have to go through, and the results will take care of themselves.
When you work on the mental part, is it with a sports psychologist or how do you do that?
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, that's what I said earlier, Dr. Joe Parent.
Q. And how much time do you spend with him?
CRISTIE KERR: He's come out twice this year already, and I talk to him a couple times a week on the phone. And we've done some great work. And, you know what, he's turned into a great friend. And it's just made me more at peace with myself and my abilities and I think the goals [clay] may be finally off the statue. That's an inside joke for him.
The Open Championship
The mental game challenges in the Major tournaments are always magnified, and there was plenty of grist for the brain mill in this one.
Eventual repeat winner Padraig Harrington came into the week with an injured wrist; whether he could play at all became the topic in the press instead of whether or not he could repeat as champion. He said that not having those expectations coming at him from every direction was a relief. He said it was also helpful that he didn't play practice rounds on windy Tuesday and Wednesday, so he was fresher physically going into Thursday. He stayed pretty much under the radar with Greg Norman being the big story until the back nine on Sunday, when he truly played like the Open Champion. Harrington started well, righting the ship after a short bogey run finishing up the front nine on Sunday. Bringing it home in 4-under (32), Paddy capped his victory with a brilliant eagle 3 on the par 5 17th hole, as he stepped away from an interesting group of contenders.
Likewise, Greg Norman, playing the Open as a tune-up for the Senior Championship, had few expectations – he credited his new wife, tennis champion Chris Evert for his intensity and focus for the first three days. Unlike Harrington, however, Norman never really got comfortable on Sunday, playing a game plan that included some questionable choices, and putting with less conviction than he had the first three days.
I spoke with Peter Kessler on his XM radio show, “At the Turn,” about something we both observed about Greg Norman on the first tee of the final round. He had talked the night before about enjoying the positive nervous energy of being in contention, and channeling that into good focus and decision-making. He said that he hoped he could do the same on Sunday. That sounded just right to me. Unfortunately, on that first tee in the final round his breathing made it look like he was fighting some nervous anxiety, very different from what he had hoped. His struggles on the first few holes seemed to confirm it.
Now let’s put things into perspective – he is 53 years old, hasn’t been in that situation in a long while, and the energy it takes to maintain that level of physical and mental game is tremendous. He tired a bit coming down the home stretch, but he didn’t lose it as much as Harrington played a brilliant back nine and won it.
The PGA Championship
The PGA Championship was a déjà-vu of the battle with Sergio Garcia over the final holes of the Open Championship last year at Carnoustie. Harrington has clearly come into his own as a major force in professional golf, pretty much ensuring his spot in the hall of fame with major win number 3. His matching 66's on the weekend were impressive. His putting on the final three holes was outrageous. The odds of a regular PGA Tour pro holing three in a row of those lengths (10, 20 and 15 feet) at an ordinary tournament are at least 500 to 1.
Taking another step closer to the major victory that has been so elusive, Sergio showed the courage and renewed confidence with his putter that has been missing from his major arsenal, and, similar to Greg Norman’s, Sergio’s defeat was more a matter of Paddy winning than of Sergio losing. (A late note: at the Barclay’s Championship, Sergio was once again a ‘snake-bit’ play-off victim, with Sergio’s apparent winning thirty-footer covered by Vijay sinking one of his own.)
“I purchased the audio version of Zen Putting the first day it was available. Both of Dr. Joe's books have had a profound impact on my approach to golf as well as to the challenges that life brings every day. I enjoyed reading (and re-reading) both books. It is a special treat to have Dr. Joe reading the audio versions.” – Dave W.
Tour Stats to Know:
As of the completion of the PGA Championship, the top six putters on Tour are averaging 28 or less putts per round (#6, averaging exactly 28, is a fellow named Harrington). The next best 66 players are averaging less than 29 putts per round. This is certainly as much a result of their magnificent short game skills as a testament to wonderful putting execution - but if you aren't averaging less than 36 (and hopefully more like 30 - 32) putts per round, perhaps it's time to read or listen to Zen Putting.
Dr. Joe in the Media
FORE! Watch for the October issue of GOLF Magazine - Doc worked with Editor-at-Large Connell Barrett on what it takes to be a happy golfer, and what do you know, Connell seems to be having more fun and playing better. Read all about the transformation, as well as learn about the Zen Golf home course, the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa Resort.
“At the Turn” with Peter Kessler, on The PGA TOUR Network, XM Radio Channel 146, is featuring Dr. Joe on a regular basis. They speak after each Major championship, focusing on the special challenges that players find at these high-pressure tournaments. Listen for Doc’s comments, during the Eastern time broadcast. Check website listings for re-broadcast times.
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Yours in Clarity, Commitment, and Composure,
Zen Golf International