How did you feel about your game before the win (Barracuda Championship), and what had you been working on?
The best thing I did was take three weeks off after Congressional (Quicken Loans National, June). I mean, I hit the ball so well at Congressional it’s incredible. But I couldn’t touch the hole from three feet all week. It was really frustrating. I took three weeks off. I just wanted to come back out here again, which was good. I’ve been working on not working on it too much, if you know what I mean.
I think about stuff a bit too much when I start. I camp on the range, on the putting green. I start analyzing a little bit too much. And I definitely play better when I don’t analyze it. I think most people probably do.
I took a bit of time off and refreshed and just played a few fun rounds of golf, stayed away from the range and the putting green and just tried to hit good shots again, if that makes sense, without actually getting too technical about it.
When you are struggling as you were before your win, how do you mentally combat that?
Around the time of the US Open I was just over it. You’re banging your head against the wall after a while and you just start getting nowhere, even if you’re working on all the right things. You feel stale, you just stop. Something just isn’t working. Stopping was the only thing I hadn’t tried, being that I was never really a very hard practicer, wasn’t really a big grinder. It doesn’t mean I didn’t spend all day everyday at the golf course, but I’d play holes then I’d mess around. But the last two or three years I’ve stepped it up and really practiced pretty hard and, funnily enough, that’s the period that I haven’t really played quite as well. I guess it took me a while to kind of realise that perhaps that’s not my tack and maybe I should just go out and enjoy it. Play golf with my friends, have a bit of fun, and not really make it an obsession because the range is such an addiction for a lot of us. You go there for ten minutes or you go there for a week or two and you hit a lot of balls and you get so into it because you see improvement rapidly. Then you just assume that it’s going to keep improving and improving, that’s how it is for me anyway. Everyone is different, everyone has different tactics.
But the range is a good tool though, right?
It’s obviously a great tool for a lot of guys, but for me it obviously doesn’t translate to better scores. I mean I hit the ball better on the range the more I hit but it doesn’t translate to better scores on the course. So the tactic, around the US Open time, was just “Stop!” Take the clubs home and just don’t open them up for two weeks and see what happens.
Not playing golf for two or three weeks in the middle of the season is probably not perfect all the time but I think I need to get better at recognizing earlier when I’m over it, when I’ve had enough, and taking the break a little bit earlier because I was playing quite well in the spring. And when you’re nearly there you just gotta keep grinding and grinding and it wears you out and you see it amongst half the tour guys. You’re just so worn out because you just get so tunnel-vision obsessed with hitting balls and hitting as many putts as you can, and hitting as many bunker shots as you can, and leaving the course late, and going to the gym, and doing all the right things. But none of us got great doing that. We all got great just because we loved to play a lot of golf.
What do you at home in Scottsdale, Arizona to take your mind off the game?
We spend the summer in San Diego. I’ve got three kids so I’ve got plenty of stuff to keep me busy at home. Obviously fun stuff. I go surfing a lot at home in San Diego. In Scottsdale I really just enjoy kid’s stuff. They are 7, 6, and 4. The boys are getting into baseball and tee-ball. My daughter is doing gymnastics and they’re doing a few other things. It’s a pretty full-time job with three kids at that age. And it’s fun, it’s so removed from this world (golf) so it’s really good.
Are you still cycling?
A little bit. I run a bit more than I ride. It’s a kid thing. It’s easier to go out for a 40-minute run than it is to go out for a 3-hour ride. After you ride for a while it’s hard to ride for less than three hours and be satisfied. It’s a bit annoying to go for an hour-ride. It sounds weird but it’s pretty addictive riding. So that’s why I’ve been running a bit.
How long do you run?
Anywhere between four and seven miles. Mostly about five miles.
Going back to golf, what are your thoughts on the R&A preparing to vote on women’s admittance into their clubs?
It’s probably a long time too late but I guess it seems like it’s the trendy time to do that. Augusta kind of did it at their own pace. They obviously knew that around 20 years ago. They weren’t going to be told to do it. They were going to do it when they were ready and they did. It’s the right thing for sure. It’s pretty archaic because I think a massive percentage of golfers in the world are women so they should be represented. All of those ruling bodies should have votes. It’s the right move, maybe it’s too late. But they got there so there we have it.
What’s needed to boost golf in Australia and globally?
Cheaper, more accessible, and play a bit faster. The argument that golf is too difficult is complete nonsense. Golf has never really been easier. The equipment has never been better, the grass has never been better, the greens have never run smoother. There’s never been more instruction, video analysis, or coaches. Golf has never theoretically been easier, and yet perhaps less people are playing so the ‘golf is too hard’ argument is complete crap I think. That being said, more accessibility for people and especially for kids, and cheaper rates are key. Maybe more nine-hole courses, more par-3’s. I know people say they’ve tried them but no one has ever really built great ones. Great golf clubs had more junior-type setups and more accommodating to juniors. And maybe having sensible dress codes for people. It’s all pretty basic, like putting golf in school programs. It’s really cost and time, especially in America but everywhere really. Who’s got seven hours to kill on a Saturday morning after you’ve worked all week and you leave the house at 7:00 am, you’re not getting home until 2:00 pm after you’ve played a five-hour round and had lunch or a beer with your buddies. Who’s got that kind of time? And it’s very expensive.
Do you see anything in the US that could be adopted in Australia?
To be fair, I think we do a better job in Australia. I think golf gets very expensive in the United States because there’s a lot of stuff that’s become expected that isn’t really necessary, like all the facilities. The over-the-top service, and the bag-drops, and the valet, the bottles of water on every tee, and the piles of tees on every tee, and the Prov1’s on the range. It’s nice but it doesn’t need to be there and it all adds to the expense and the crazy maintenance standards.
The maintenance budgets are off the charts. It doesn’t need to be that way. The UK has had it right forever. They don’t put many chemicals in their courses, they don’t water them very much. Obviously golf is played in places in the US where you need to throw a lot of water and chemicals like in Arizona, Nevada, you’ve got to have a larger maintenance budget than you would in North Berwick in Scotland for example but it’s still a little bit over the top.
The expectation of perfect white sand and striped green fairways is something where people think they want that but the reality is they would prefer to play golf for fifty dollars with normal grass than 100 dollars with striped, green grass and white sand. It’s become an unrealistic expectation I think. We do better at that in Australia. We’ve got more sensible maintenance budgets and golf is a lot cheaper in Australia than it is in the US. But it still takes a long time. Nine holes seems to be a more acceptable way to play. Par-3 courses or little courses, formats that encourage faster play. They used to play US Open rounds in three hours 50-60 years ago, and they were harder courses, so you can’t tell me that golf takes a long time because it’s hard. It’s no harder than it was before and it’s arguably easier.
Let’s talk equipment. Have you added anything to your bag recently?
I’ve got a new Titleist driver that I put in the bag at Congressional. Equipment usually evolves quite nicely so it’s usually easier to transition into the new stuff. It’s the 915. But I don’t change equipment too much, I’m not a tinkerer really. Only with my putter but I need to stop doing that. I’ve had about 500 putters in the last two years. I travel with fifteen clubs. I have a 5-wood and a 2-iron and it depends on the course and the conditions whether I carry one or the other. If it’s windy and/or firm I’ll go with the 2-iron; If it’s going to be still and soft with some rough then I go with the 5-wood.
Who do you feel is the most underrated player on Tour?
Marc Leishman. He was right up there in the Masters, he had a top 4 or 5 in the Open, he contended at Firestone. He’s starting to produce at really big tournaments. He’s a bit more on the leaderboards with all the other big name players hanging around. I think we rate all the other Australians like Adam (Scott) and Jason (Day) pretty strongly. Maybe Leishman goes under the radar a little bit because of his personality. That’s just the way he is. He’s probably happy to be under the radar.