Wait wait GO!: The best advice for players on how to be mentally ready to restart the 2020 PGA Tour season – Yahoo Sports

Posted: June 1, 2020 at 6:47 am

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Professional golf at the highest level returns next week with the restart of the PGA Tour season at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth. With so much time offroughly three months since the Players Championship was canceled after one roundbecause of the coronavirus pandemic, the worlds top golfers are certain to be eager to resume competing, pursue their livelihoods and feel some sense of normalcy. Eagerness and readiness arent interchangeable, however.

In anticipation of the restart, the question many observers have is a simple one: What kind of golf can we expect to see? Given most players have been practicing at home in recent weeks, the usual aspects of the gamehitting bombs off the tee, striping irons into greens and scraping in nervy three-footersshould be readily embraced and, largely, executed to a familiar high standard.

The primary challenge that awaits, then is more mental than physical. Bobby Jones once said that competitive golf is played mainly on a 5-inch course, the space between your ears, and that certainly hasnt changed. What has changed is the environment in which that competition is conducted. In a post-COVID-19 world, where tournaments will be played with a new set of realities governing them that will take some getting used to, requiring a new way of thinking and an increased level of patience. Some guys will adjust faster than others.

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Basically, how guys prepare for competition isnt going to change. These guys know how to get ready to play golf, and they know what to do when the gun goes off, Dr. Bob Rotella said. Obviously, things going on in the world have affected their daily lives, and it has affected the rhythm of their season, their practice and so forth, but they cant let that get in the way of their proven methods and mindset. Having said that, human nature dictates that everyone is different.

Inside the ropes, its going to change the least. Playing the game is still playing the game, Dr. Mo Pickens agreed. But whatever the way things were at the last event we played, we arent going to see that coming back, maybe ever. A normal week is going to be different. We will still have the traveling circus, but it is going to be a different circus.

A memo sent to the players last week and obtained by Golf Digest outlined some of the differences that players can expect at Colonial. Those include an initial coronavirus test upon arrival, another on Saturday, daily temperature checks and other safety measures such as grab-and-go meals. A 37-page document the tour released May 12 outlined numerous precautions, including player interactions with caddies and equipment personnel.

There could still be other modifications, too, depending on the site. At least the first four events on the revamped schedule will be conducted without spectators in attendance.

There are three kinds of people in the world, and we are going to see how those three groups handle things early on, said swing instructor Sean Foley, who is equally attuned to the mental side of golf. Some guys are going to struggle, because they cant handle the changes and think everything is a pain in the ass. All they see are the negatives. Theyre the victims, people who perceive themselves as the only ones who are suffering. Then there are the guys who need time to figure things out. They will adjust, but maybe need a week under their belts, maybe more.

PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 07: A general view of the driving range at Spyglass Hill Golf Course prior to the second round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on February 07, 2020 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

And then youll have this group of guys who are going to find the opportunity in this. Guys who are more like Brooksie [Brooks Koepka], who have the virtue of acceptance and say whatever and realize that the paradigm has shifted and adjust to it. They accept the challenge and any potential adversity.

For the players Pickens works with, the point he has expressed is to accept that tournament week is still evolving, and its likely going to continue to do so even after the restart. So what I say to my players is to find a way to put yourself in a setting you might already know, he said. [The situation] could be like junior golf, where you show up, warm up, and go play and there is no one around to watch you. No frills. You might never go in the locker room. It might be like a British Open where you get five or six guys together renting a house, you get a chef, stay in all week, and maybe that isnt a bad thing to do now. But the key is to be ready to change your mindset and be ready to have to make more plans for what you do in your day. The comforts of the tour and travel arent all going to be there.

When it comes to sharpening their games, Pickens, based in Sea Island, Ga., where a number of tour players live, has harped on several messages. He has emphasized to players taking an approach much like their offseason, breaking down statistics and concentrating on perhaps one discipline. He has outlined a program that includes 12 practice sessions over six days with a mandatory day off, and with variations to prevent staleness. He also has encouraged more walking as the restart nears. Its amazing how important that is, both for the fitness aspect and getting back into that competitive rhythm after regularly playing out of a cart, he said.

Rotella goes back to believing that players largely know what they need to do to get ready. His emphasis is all about pitfalls in attitude.

Ive told guys, dont try too hard. Others you have to tell them dont get too caught up or lost in their golf swings, Rotella said. Others you just want them to concentrate on one aspect of their game that they are trying to improve upon as a way to not put pressure on their whole game. For the most part, I should think its their short games. And yet others, they might try to be too perfect because their expectations are pretty high based on so much time working on things. I can see some guys overpreparing or picking their games apart, and they have to fight that.

Then its just a matter of remembering their routines and sticking to them regardless of whatever else is going on in the tournament.

Sergio Garcia warms up on his driving at the practice range of the KLM Open at The International Golf Course on September 12 2019 in Badhoevedorp, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Photo by: Dean Mouhtaropoulos

Or not going on, which, at least for the first month, will be the presence of spectators and their accompanying reaction to shots.

The PGA Tour might not like to hear this, but while players have an awareness of fans and can feel the presence of fans, they are so good at getting lost into their own little worlds that they really dont notice them that much as they play from shot to shot, Rotella said. Would they rather have a gallery watching them so they can show off and be cheered? Yeah. But when they play at home against their buddies, they are going at it and trying hard, and there are no fans. Same thing. I think the adjustment isnt going to be that great. And by the way, its not like no one is paying attention. That TV camera is still there watching.

Some guys do feed off a gallery, Pickens said. I wonder if a guy like Phil Mickelson will enjoy it as much without fans. I can see where some players arent going to be enthused about just playing golf. Other guys dont like the crowds and the fanfare and signing autographs, or interviews, and they will think its phenomenal to just play golf and be done.

The main thing, insists Pickens, is for players to be open to change and enjoy the return to the thing they love to do. Youll want to be a little more self-aware than you were earlier, he said. You need to have a thankful attitude and an accepting attitude, but you have to have an intentional attitude to where you are doing what needs to be done.

In other words, a change of outlook is crucial to success going forward. But so is a commitment to not changing the things that work.

Talk about mind games. And golf is hard enough already.

Im looking forward to the human experiment that is about to unfold in front of us with golf as the laboratory, Foley said. I keep seeing this reference of a return to normalcy, and let me tell you, we arent ever going back to what we view as normal ever again. You can either get stuck in that rut of wanting to go back to the way things were, or you can adapt and move forward. Its going to be fascinating to watch who adapts and figures it all out.

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Wait wait GO!: The best advice for players on how to be mentally ready to restart the 2020 PGA Tour season - Yahoo Sports

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June 1st, 2020 at 6:47 am

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