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Danny Willett wanted to quit golf during dark period after Masters win

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Danny Willett hasn’t won since his surprise 2016 Masters victory. His recent form has been horrendous, missing the cut or withdrawing in eight of his last 13 starts.

He’s changed swing coaches, battled injury, and admits in a blog post for the European Tour there have been times since winning the green jacket that he “just didn’t want to play golf.”

Here’s are a few of the more interesting morsels from Willett’s blog.

On the aftermath of his Masters win…

“What’s funny is that we, as golfers, spend so much time practicing for those moments, working on our swings, those chip shots, pressure putts, how to deal with being in contention mentally but no one ever really prepares you for what happens next, after you achieve greatness like that. Ultimately I’ll be able to look back on that day and be thankful for all that it has given me but it’s not always easier dealing with the aftermath.”

“After the Masters, every time I went to the range, every time I was on a putting green or in a practice round, there were cameras on you and everything’s being filmed and recorded. That magnifies everything to the nth degree.”

“People that know me, know that I wear my heart on my sleeve and if I’m having a bad day on the course, I’ll show it and if I’m playing well and everything’s great in the world, you can tell. That’s just who I am. When the spotlight was on me constantly, I felt I had to dull that side of me down a little. It’s much harder to show some of that emotion, good or bad, when everyone’s eyes are on you.”

On low points…

“There’s been quite a few low points over the last few months. At the end of 2016 I was in contention in the Race to Dubai and I just didn’t want to play golf. Think about that. It’s utterly ridiculous.”

On remembering his Masters win often…

“After Augusta, I began opening up to friends and people around me and trying to take a look at what I could do to improve. It wouldn’t be an easy few months but I still look back on that dinner and tell myself there was a reason I had a name card and a place at that table. I had earned an invitation and I often find myself remembering that meal.”

“I’d find myself watching YouTube videos. The number of times I’ve watched clips of my final round at Augusta is ridiculous.”

On his ailing back…

“I had to pull out of a couple of events and it became a problem. It was annoying as working out didn’t hurt it, drills didn’t hurt it but firing into the ball at full speed and just being a little off could cause a lot of pain.”

“It ended up taking over my game as I’d be taking painkillers in the morning after waking up in pain, getting an hour of physio before each round, playing the round with a swing that hurt, then needing an hour of physio after the round. I was just knackered.”

On the nature of professional tournament golf..

“Golf is a strange sport. When you’re playing well, it seems very easy but when you’re struggling it feels like all the time on the range makes no difference out on the course. That can be a hard challenge to deal with mentally, especially when you’re traveling week-to-week trying to find that form against some of the best players and toughest courses in the world.

“That being said I’m very lucky to have friends and family off the course that do what they can to keep my on that path to success and help put things in perspective.”

Willet’s entire blog post is more than worth a read. Check it out here.

Few players are truly candid about the ups and downs of the professional game. Willett, going from relative obscurity (in the U.S. at least) to Masters winner, then failing win in the 18 months since is an extreme case.

Certainly, plenty of critics will cite his privilege as a tour pro and suggest he should never complain. Many will question his underlying desire and hammer him for admitting there were times he didn’t want to play golf.

Here’s the thing: Willett is not alone in this experience. Don’t you think Shaun Micheel experienced something similar? Ben Curtis? Willett is singular in having the courage to be transparent about his struggles as he continues his effort to improve and follow up his Masters win.

You’ve gotta root for him to do just that.

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19th Hole

Strokes gained surprise: More distance off the tee doesn’t pay for pros

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Writing for Golf.com, strokes gained inventor/guru, Mark Broadie, filed an interesting (as you would expect) look at driving distance gains on Tour.

No, no, don’t worry. This isn’t a diatribe on the ball going too far, but rather, a look at the players who picked up the most yardage in 2016-2017. Even more interestingly, however, Broadie then examines how the increase in distance translated into a player’s improved performance in strokes gained: off-the-tee…or didn’t as the case seemed to be.

Broadie, “compared driving stats for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, looking at all tee shots on par-4 and par-5 holes,” adjusting for course effects. Check out the professor’s chart.

Broadie’s conclusion: “Added distance doesn’t necessarily lead to lower scores, if too much accuracy is sacrificed” (unless you’re Kyle Stanley).

You can check out Broadie’s full piece and explanation for that conclusion here.

By the way, if you’re wondering how Chappell picked up 10 yards off the tee, his coach, Mark Blackburn, told Broadie it was

“A perfect storm of equipment, ball and a swing change,” Blackburn replied. “He switched drivers, changed to a less ‘spinny’ ball, and lengthened his swing. More hip turn around the trail leg allowed him to load more efficiently and then explode into his lead leg.”

What do you think, GolfWRX members?

And if you’re wondering about the equipment in question, here’s Chappell’s WITB. He switched to a 2016 TaylorMade M1 from a Nike Vapor Flex 440, it seems, but was pictured most recently with a 2017 M1.

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19th Hole

Tiger Woods’ extreme competitiveness, not surprisingly, extends to H-O-R-S-E

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Tiger Woods is competitive. Tiger Woods doesn’t like to be beaten at anything. These are eternal truisms in the Tiger Woods story.

If you play the 14-time major champion in, say, ping pong, don’t expect to win. If you face off against the 79-time PGA Tour winner, however, if you have the skills of Air Joe LaCava, you could notch a victory, or nine, but don’t expect it to sit well with the Big Cat. And certainly don’t expect him to feed you!

Here’s what happened, according to Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava, who recently appeared on the “Inside the Ropes” podcast on Sirius XM.

Squaring off in everyone’s favorite equine-named playground game, LaCava beat Woods in nine straight games of H-O-R-S-E. La Cava, reportedly, relied on a smooth mid-range game to take down Tiger, who was jacking up threes.

“He did not talk to me the rest of the day. I didn’t even get the old text, ‘Dinner is ready,’ because I stay across at the beach house. I didn’t even get that text that night. I had to get takeout,” LaCava said. “He didn’t announce he wasn’t [talking to me], he just didn’t. And I’m telling you, it was nine games in a row. I’m telling you, he’s so competitive, even at something like that.”

Cold. But would you expect anything less? You don’t win the U.S. Open on one good leg in excruciating pain fueled by an average blend of competitive juices. In fact, if we learned Woods had softened in his old age and, say, let LaCava win, that’d be serious cause for concern.

Check out the clip below.

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19th Hole

Phil Mickelson has been ranked in the OWGR top 50 for 24 years. Impressed?

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Animalgolfs points out an interesting end-of-the-season factoid: Phil Mickelson has been ranked inside the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking for the past 24 years. Also interesting: Mickelson has never been ranked No. 1.

It’s an impressive accomplishment, even allowing for the fact that the ranking wasn’t invented until 1986, right?

Most GolfWRX members think so.

Grm24 writes

“It’s an amazing number. As with the number total number of weeks Tiger was ranked #1 in the OWGR that will likely never be touched, I do not for foresee any current player finishing in the OWGR top 50 for the next 24+ years. An excellent tribute to Phils longevity and overall play.”

Bye agrees

“That’s seriously impressive, especially when you add in how much the equipment has changed during that time.”

JerseyBoy says

“He’s in my top 5. Love to watch him. And he is doing all that with an Autoimmune Disease which is amazing in and of itself.”

However, not everyone is impressed by the left-hander’s achievement. Ferguson, who is not a member of the Phil Mickelson Fan Club, says (pulled from several posts)

“And this statistic, while worthy of a mention, is not that outstanding when considering it is based on a world ranking system that started in 1986.

“He (Phil) had the skills but never had the potential. He lacked the mental capacity to stick to a consistent game plan week after week, and execute. He made a lot of bad choices.

“Phil was a circus act, replete with pompous showmanship. Sure, he was good for the TV audience – we all like to watch a guy with no self control. He could have been number one had he stopped trying to be so darn fabulous all of the time.”

Eventually, Ferguson says that Mickelson is a great player, one of the top-25 of all-time, but that he sees little value in this particular achievement.

What do you think, GolfWRX members? Is Mickelson’s achievement closer to Tiger Woods’ cut streak or “who cares?”

Check out the forum thread and have your say.

 

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