Tuesday 11 December 2018

Rotella's remedy is a proven winner

Sam Snead reckons someone like Bob Rotella would have helped him greatly
Sam Snead reckons someone like Bob Rotella would have helped him greatly

Liam Kelly

Doctor Bob's formula works wonders as mind guru guides stars through rough times

ROTELLA. Doctor Bob. Author of a series of best selling golf books and the man the stars call when they need help with the mental approach to golf.

He sat back in a chair outside the Competitors Guests marquee at the British Open in Hoylake last Saturday morning and spoke eloquently and clearly about the crucial part of the game played in the six inches between the ears.

Just over 10 years ago Rotella and his co-author Bob Cullen produced a book with the irresistible title "Golf Is Not A Game Of Perfect," quickly followed by "Golf Is A Game Of Confidence."

They became huge sellers and were followed by more as the public lapped up the Rotella views on how to get the best of your potential.

Even before the first book, the former basketball and lacrosse coach had become THE man to see by US Tour stars seeking that edge on their opponents.

How that part of his career came about was interesting and had its origins in his coaching of basketball and lacrosse teams at the University of Connecticut

Rotella knew he could inspire his teams to be strong mentally and highly motivated and had studied the psychology of the mind as it related to sport.

Through his basketball, US Tour player Denis Watson approached Rotella for help. From there, he got involved with Golf Digest Instruction Schools.

Rotella remembered that in his first two-hour presentation to coaches at those schools was the great Sam Snead.

He was warned beforehand that Sam could be blunt and biting if he considered that a coach was talking bull droppings.

So the Doc gives his spiel and invites questions and Sam is the first one to speak. "Uh,oh, here we go," says Rotella to himself.


Snead had won the British Open once and three Masters titles, but he never won the US Open and typical of his fate in that tournament was his 1939 collapse at Philadelphia Country Club.

He needed a par five to win, but shot eight and didn't even make the play-off which was won by Byron Nelson. He also suffered from the dreaded Yips later in his career.

Instead of slamming Rotella, Snead told him: "I wish I'd have had someone like you in my day.

"There was a lotta junk going on in my head about all that stuff and it stayed with me the rest of my life." Snead's seal of approval accelerated acceptance of Rotella. Soon afterwards Tom Kite, Gary Koch, and Roger Maltbie came to him, and the Doc became big story when they went on a victory spree on Tour.

"Kite won one week, Koch the next, Maltbie won, Kite won again . . . it all started happening.

"Then Pat Bradley came to me and she won a bunch of stuff on the LPGA Tour, so it went on an on from there," said Rotella.

The Doc was busy at Hoylake. Among his clients were Pádraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Davis Love, Ernie Els, Scott Verplank, and Greg Owen.

Sceptics will say that good players should not need any help sorting out their attitude and their mind.

Ben Hogan told Rotella that he was glad he hadn't needed anybody like him to win his five Majors - two US Opens, two USPGA titles and the British Open.

So I had to ask: "Are modern day players soft compared to the stars of yesteryear as they all seem to need psychologists, fitness trainers, swing coaches etc?"

Rotella replied: "It's nothing to with being 'soft.' It has everything to do with the depth of competition.

"Hogan told me he could pick a number to shoot a score and be pretty certain it would be right there or within a shot because there were only five or six guys in any field that could beat him.

"Nowadays there's a hundred, maybe more, out there who on a given day can beat anyone, even Tiger. Now that changes things.

"The player has to be sharper.

"You can't lose your focus because you got tired either physically, mentally, or nutritionally. You have to reduce the number of mental errors. So really it's the depth of competition forcing this stuff. The guys like Snead and Hogan did the best they could with what was available at the time.

"Everyone's always looking for an edge but the good news is that the player still has to go out and do it on the course.

"I always say I never did anything to any player; all I'm teaching them is how to use their mind and body because you can't separate the mind and body.

"All I know is that if you play golf and your mind and body are in synch, then boy, you can do some good stuff.

"What we're trying to do is get players to where they're totally physically, mentally and emotionally prepared to play great golf.

"Ideally you'd like it to be in the Majors, but the human body isn't a machine and you can't always guarantee that.

"But it's also the case that the better players do a better job of playing well when they're not feeling so good.

"Golf is a game of mistakes and it isn't going to change.

"And all the stuff I teach applies equally to ordinary golfers as much as the Tour players.

"We're trying to get you to be the best golfer YOU can be, and if that means playing better in your Saturday fourball or winning a Major championship, it's all about getting people to be impressed with themselves.

"Basically, what ever the level of player, I'm trying to get them to understand that they're capable of getting pretty darned good at golf if they get their mind and belief in the right place."

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