by Jeff Skinner
Last week we watched as a young, confident Keegan Bradley worked his tail off in the final round of the WGD Bridgestone Invitational. He got to a place where he needed another clutch putt on the last hole to have any chance of winning or going to a playoff. When Jim Furyk missed his putt Bradley had won his first WGC event and third career win.
Afterwards Bradley was adamant about his ability to hole that last putt, “I didn’t think for a second I was going to miss it,” Bradley said. “It was unbelievable. I got behind it, and I barely even had to read it. I knew the exact way it was going to break. I just needed to hit it hard enough. I knew that. And it was dead center”
Bradley’s feeling about that putt had to make his mental coach Dr. Bob Rotella smile. That’s classic ‘Rotella Speak’ and Bradley has blossomed into one of his premier students. With three wins including the 2011 PGA Championship Bradley has become one of the young players to be reckoned with and Rotella’s teachings are a critical part of his makeup.
Rotella’s relationship with the Bradley family goes way back as he worked with Keegan’s aunt, Pat Bradley the Hall of Fame LPGA golfer. Rotella’s latest book, “The Unstoppable Golfer” highlights exactly what Bradley was thinking as he sized up that last putt. It’s what every golfer wishes he could be each time they tee it up: be confident enough make the shot.
Rotella has worked with so many golfers and other athletes you can’t keep track. But if you ever make it to a major championship take some time to check out the practice putting green and you are sure to see Dr. Bob holding court. Player after player stop by to chat with the good doctor just to get their head on a bit straighter.
Rotella’s “The Unstoppable Golfer” gives you the tools to get your own head on straight. Much of it covers what Rotella has been preaching for decades: patience , perseverance, staying in the moment, loving your short game, believing in the process, dismissing poor shots and relishing every moment of your round.
In this book he does focus on the short game and positive practice habits, positive self image and using your mind to stay positive. While reading it, it all sounds so elemental but putting it into practice requires dedication. That’s another aspect he touches on: a player’s commitment to get better. It isn’t easy for sure, that’s why the doc is in such demand.
One of the most fascinating chapters in his book concentrated on his long time student Darren Clarke during Clarke’s victorious Open Championship week in 2011. Clarke approached the Open that year in a bad state of mind as he felt he had lost his short game. Rotella worked his magic on the pint loving Irishman and soon Clarke was so confident with his game he acted like he owned Royal St. Georges. I remember Clarke looking so relaxed as he made his way around the links on that final day. He didn’t let a bad shot , worse weather or a charge from his opponents distract him from his task at hand. He went on to win and become one of the great stories of the year. It was Rotella’s handiwork at its best.
The Clarke-Rotella interaction gives us an insider’s view of how a pro feels during a major championship and that portion of the book is reason enough to read it. But Rotella offers us plenty more and this may be the simplest of suggestions to help our game but one of the most difficult to implement: just be happy on the course. You’re playing a game among friends on a beautiful piece of property and we should all appreciate the small things that make playing golf great and not worry about bogeys, flubs, slices, hooks, lost balls and the rest.
We’d all score better if we just relaxed and enjoyed the moment and welcome the challenge of each and every shot. Just ask Keegan, he seems to be doing just fine with the help from the good doctor Rotella.
Rotella once again has aced it with this book. You may not really be “Unstoppable” but you’ll be playing so well you won’t care.