Friday 20 January 2017

Rotella just what doctor ordered to help players realise dreams

Published 26/07/2016 | 02:30

Padraig Harrington plays his tee-shot on the sixth hole at Baltusrol yesterday during a practice round ahead of the PGA Championship. Picture Credit: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Padraig Harrington plays his tee-shot on the sixth hole at Baltusrol yesterday during a practice round ahead of the PGA Championship. Picture Credit: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The memories and emotions surged back for Dr Bob Rotella as he recalled some of the men he helped to win the US PGA Championship.

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Dr Bob has worked with a number of winners of the traditional final Major of the year, including our own Pádraig Harrington in 2008.

Harrington is back again as a past champion, playing in the PGA for the 18th time in his career.

The Dubliner and Dr Bob have worked together since 1997, but long before Harrington engaged Rotella's services, the Doc had left his imprint on the PGA Championship.

Read More: Harrington and guru Rotella looking for the ideal blend between mental and physical

Australia's Wayne Grady, the winner of the Wanamaker Trophy at Shoal Creek in 1990, was one of Rotella's clients.

Padraig Harrington with Bob Rotella after winning the British Open at Royal Birkdale in 2008. Picture Credit: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images
Padraig Harrington with Bob Rotella after winning the British Open at Royal Birkdale in 2008. Picture Credit: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Nick Price, PGA champion two years later, was another Rotella devotee, as were Davis Love III (1997), David Toms (2001), Phil Mickelson (2005), Harrington (2008) and Keegan Bradley (2011).

These were just PGA winners; Rotella's long-time relationship with Tom Kite bore rich fruit when Kite cracked the Major-winning code by claiming the US Open title in 1992.

To date, over 75 Major champions across men's, women's and senior Tours have benefited from working with the renowned sports psychologist.

In addition to the golfers named above, Darren Clarke, Brad Faxon, Paul Azinger, Trevor Immelman, Billy Mayfair, John Cook, Scott Verplank and Jeff Sluman have been in the past, or still are, on his client list.

Dr Bob is a man who believes that dreams can come true - provided the work is done to support them.

"The people I work with, they start off with dreams and they keep going after it.

"It doesn't matter if you come from Dublin or you come from New York, we all start off the same, and it's a question of, 'Are you going to believe it's possible, even when the prevailing wisdom is: 'No one from here has ever done that' or 'No one from here has done that in a long time?'" he said.

Philosophy

Harrington's achievements epitomise Dr Bob's philosophy.

Only one Irishman had won a Major since World War II, and that was Fred Daly in the Open of 1947. The Irish Open title had not produced a single home champion since John O'Leary in 1982.

Eventually, Harrington broke the mould. He won the Irish Open at Adare Manor in May 2007 and, by the evening of Sunday, July 22 in that epic year, the Claret Jug was on its way to Dublin and Irish golf had changed forever.

"I said it my book it wasn't that much different from Roger Bannister running the first four-minute mile.

"I think Pádraig's a great example. It didn't take very long after he did it (won a Major) before a whole lot of (Irish) people did it after him.

"It didn't all fall in his lap, it didn't come easy, but there's a level of mental toughness, emotional resilience there, an attitude that you just don't give up chasing the stuff you're chasing.

"Ultimately, it's about, 'Can you sustain it when the game's trying to beat you up at times?'

"You've just got to keep on going, and it doesn't really end. I'd say Pádraig's just as hungry now as he's ever been. He wants more," said Rotella.

Harrington and others like him, with that huge inner hunger to be the absolute best they can be, are the folk that Dr Bob loves to assist.

Pat Bradley, an LPGA legend, and her nephew Keegan Bradley both came, as Rotella describes it, "out of left field".

"Pat became one of the greats. We started working when she was about 30, and she had won one time up to then. In the next eight years, she'd won 36 tournaments and seven Majors. She was a real short hitter, hit it nowhere, but had an unbelievable mind," he said.

Aunty Pat's achievements inspired her nephew Keegan Bradley with the desire to become a Tour player, and Pat made sure that once Keegan had embarked on his pro career, he linked up with Dr Bob.

Bradley turned pro in 2008, and came through mini-Tours to the Web.Com Tour, from where he earned PGA Tour card for the 2011 campaign.

In August that year, Bradley joined the elite as a Major champion, defeating Jason Dufner in a three-hole play-off for the US PGA title at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Rotella recalled a key moment at the start of that week.

Bradley had shot 74 in the final round at the Bridgestone Invitational and missed out on a chance to win the tournament before travelling to Atlanta for the PGA. He was still upset on the Monday of US PGA week.

Dr Bob let him talk and then gently observed: "God, how well must you be playing to be in contention and to get that close?" 'You've gotta be thrilled to death' was the gist of his response.

From that moment, Bradley shrugged off the frustration of Firestone, and got down to business at the PGA - so successfully that he got his name on the Wanamaker Trophy.

Irish Independent

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