Tag Archives: Greg Norman

Steve Williams, Out Of The Rough – Book Review

Steve Williams

Steve Williams’ account of life on tour in Out Of The Rough (2015), is a fascinating look inside the experiences of the world’s most successful caddie.  Williams covers his career starting as a youth who got a very early start in the game, and was encouraged by his father to get involved at the expense of finishing school (which he never did).  Throughout the book he returns to this theme and wishes that he’d completed his education, but is thankful that his Dad looked the other way.

Williams’ list of high profile bosses is impressive.  He was on the bag for 150 wins world wide and carried for the likes of Greg Norman (who he classifies as the toughest player he ever worked for), Ray Floyd, Ian Baker-Finch, Tiger Woods, and Adam Scott.  Williams provides many inside the ropes anecdotes, as well as passages from the aforementioned players that detail his contributions to their careers.

Most golf fans got their introduction to Williams as Tiger Woods’ caddie during the 13 years of Tiger’s pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ majors record.  What we learned is that Williams took on and ultimately mirrored Tiger’s psychic mentality and single mindedness during the chase, and he gives the reader the impression that he almost felt dual ownership of the successes and failures with Tiger, even though Woods was ultimately the one hitting the shots.  Williams is a perfectionist and readily admits that some of the boorish behavior TV fans have become familiar with was born out of this single-mindedness attitude but also due to his natural personality.  Williams has always been very business like on the course and protective of his players which has gotten him into trouble.  Like the time he took a camera off a spectator at the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black and threw it in a lake.  Tiger appreciated Williams’ support and picked up the cost of his fine.

Williams notes that he maintains an active friendship with all his ex-bosses except for one; Tiger.  After their falling out at the AT&T National in 2011 the two have rarely spoken and Williams holds a lot of bitterness towards Tiger that he can’t let go of.

Williams details a few regrets.  There’s some poor advice he gave to Norman and Ray Floyd that may have cost them major titles, as well as the interview he gave after the 2011 WGC Bridgestone, after Tiger had sacked him and Adam Scott won with Williams on the bag.   The book also has several excellent passages between Williams and his ex-bosses, like the time Greg Norman confided in him during an all night beer drinking therapy session on the beach after blowing the 1996 Masters to Nick Faldo.  The details around the extraordinary effort by Tiger to win the 2008 U.S. Open on a broken leg were fascinating.

Williams ultimately obtained celebrity status and in the book he sometimes makes this more about himself than the professionals he worked for, but at the end of the day, most of his good fortune was due to being on the bag of Tiger.

Check this book out.  It’s fresh, it’s current, and there’s good content for golf fans at every level.

Inside The Mind Of A Chip Yipper

SeveIt was November 11, 2014.  I had just hit 10 greens and shot a 14-over 86 at Bear Trap Dunes in Ocean View, DE.  This was the round where I hit rock bottom with the chip yips.  There is nothing worse than having a decent ball striking day only to know that when you miss an approach shot you have no chance because you’re going to blade a chip over the green or come up way short.  You are paralyzed with fear and indecision and cannot execute.  This is what it’s like to experience the chip yips.

It was clear the yips were a mental problem.  I had been plagued for about five years but earlier in my career had no problem executing a variety of shots around the green from a technique standpoint.  I can’t point to a single event where my chipping fell apart, it just did.  The primary symptom was fear of running the ball past the hole and as a result, leaving my shots way short.  A secondary symptom was blading the ball with a sand wedge, usually off of a good lie.  This happened with small straight forward shots and became worse the farther away I moved from the hole.  A 20-30 yard pitch with a sand wedge became darn near impossible, however when I moved back out to 50 yards, I had no problem because that was an automatic half swing with a lob wedge.  Also, bunker shots were never a problem.  That day at Bear Trap Dunes, I was firing blade runners everywhere and totally embarrassing myself.

The solve:  Some of these techniques may seem counter intuitive and simply worked for me.  They may not work for you, so don’t necessarily try them for yourself or think that they constitute an avocation on my part of a certain method.  They simply worked.

The first thing I tried to fix was the bladed shot because that was a total loss of control.  I know my left arm softens at the elbow in my full swing and I suspected that might be happening with chips, which in turn would shorten my swing radius.  I simply focused on keeping my left elbow firm on all short swings and presto, no more bladed shots.

The more difficult issue was the fear of going long.  In the past, I had tried hitting to a spot and letting the ball run out, or feeling the distance to the hole with my practice swing but neither worked.  Everything still came up short.  If I accidentally got one to the hole, the immediate feedback upon hitting the shot was that I hit it way too hard.  The only way I could save par was by sinking a 10 or 15 foot putt.  But then I remembered seeing a video of Seve Ballesteros rehearsing chip shots with his right hand (dominant hand).  Then I recalled reading Greg Norman’s Shark Attack where he advocated throwing balls with your dominant hand at the hole for practice to gain a feel for short game.  I decided I was going to try to use my dominant hand (right) to hit my short shots because I’d always focused on making a turn with my torso and keeping my hands out of the shot.  It was a mechanical move and not feel based.  In short, I needed more art and less science.    So I started with a change in my pre-shot routine.  I stopped approaching the shot from behind, like a full swing, and started to stand astride the shot and rehearsed it until it felt good.  Then I hit the shot without delay.  The mechanical change I made was on the back swing, to feel like I was taking the club back with my left hand (with my elbow still firm), and then on the downswing controlling the force of the swing with my right hand.  When I did this, all of a sudden, I started swinging more aggressively, hitting the shot a little harder, and generating more backspin.  Now, my only thought is to “take it back with the left hand, hit it with the right.”  When I first tried this, I felt like I would chunk everything, but that never happened.  On my recent trip I started to pull my chips slightly which was probably due to the over-active right hand.  I added a little bit of pivot to the downswing and that was corrected because the chip is still a mini swing that requires timing and needs to be initiated with a hip turn.

After 18 rounds, I’m trusting this pretty well.  Now when I miss a chip or pitch, it inevitably goes long, and I’m fine with that because I can see the ball break around the hole and I know it’s had a chance to go in.  On occasion, I’ll still feel a little apprehension about going long so I make sure to take enough practice swings feeling my right hand initiate the downswing and then I hit the shot quickly.  In all my 2016 rounds, I can honestly say I’ve only yipped two or three chips, and actually seen a few more than that go in.

Finally, regarding club selection, I am in the camp of matching the club to the shot rather than being able to execute a ton of different shots with one club because I don’t play or practice enough to do that.  For chips, I like the sand wedge, pitching wedge, and on long chip and runs, the 8-iron.  For green side pitches, I favor the lob wedge or sand wedge.

So that’s the story of recovering from the chip yips.  They are horrible and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone.  Hope my luck holds out and that you never see them.

Play well!

Greg Norman weighs in on Tiger

Great article at golf.com on Norman’s views on Tiger.  I was a huge Greg Norman fan in his heyday and found his points on the lack of a mentor for Tiger very telling and was interested to learn that Norman leaned on Nicklaus, Watson, Floyd, and Trevino when times got tough.  Norman never struck me as the type to seek out help, especially after his blow-up at the 1996 Masters, and he seemed to lose his swagger after that defeat.  I wonder if he consulted the aforementioned greats before or after the loss.

Clearly, Tiger lost his mentor when his dad passed and I suspect that was the start of his downfall, although he sustained his professional success for several years while the seeds of his personal implosion were germinating.

Norman’s statement that, “Nobody’s bigger than the game or anybody else,” is true and I suspect Tiger never got the message.