Tom Patri: Clouded mind affects everyone

Is golf not the most bizarre game in sport?

Several weeks ago, Tiger Woods rips Stephen Ames apart at the match play, never letting him up for air. Mr. Ames is now The Players champion. He was supposed to suffer from nerves down the stretch run in the final round.

I don't know which broadcast you watched, but he looked rock solid to me. Just when you thought, "Oh boy, here comes 16, 17, and 18" — known to trouble a few through the years — he puts the pedal down and finishes off a world-class field, maybe the best of the year.

No Tiger in sight. To be fair, Woods' mind was elsewhere, but Ames would have been tough to beat for a focused Tiger. And Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia were bush slapping, playing hockey, not golf, and TPC was TPC to everyone else but Ames.

Last week, just before TPC on two separate occasions, I had two different students come for a lesson and voice there displeasure that they had experienced out of the blue, crazy bad rounds, only to return several days later to solid form. They couldn't understand how golf could be that way. I questioned them, and through our talk, I found the following:

One of them on the day before their bad round had found a spot in an X-ray that looked, well, not normal. They found out the day after the bad round it was A-OK, thank God. The other, on the morning of her bad round, found out that her sister had taken seriously ill back home, only later in the week to become stable. You think you can play this game at 100 percent if you're not clear and focused on the task at hand?

Ask the greatest player in the world about his mind-set at TPC last week with his dad lying ill in California. He had no chance. Golf, as I discuss in my book, "The Six Spoke Approach," requires a clarity that is unlike few other sports. It requires you to be in the present, not the past, or the future. You cannot wander in golf. The target and your purpose need to be paramount to play golf at a level of desired skill.

Tom Patri's teaching academy has moved to Lely Resort, with an indoor studio open at The Health Club of Naples. Patri is one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers in America. He can be reached at

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