Tom Patri: Ben Curtis' rebound from struggles shows attitude makes difference

TOM PATRI

We often wonder about our own games. One day we play like Jack Nicklaus, and the next like Jack "the wack"!

Ben Curtis is a young man who, way back in 2003, won a little event called The Open, as it is called everywhere but here (the British Open). He also had won here just so you understand the win wasn't a fluke.

This talented player was basically an established member of big-time professional golf at the highest level. Suddenly, the bottom fell out. He began struggling with his game, missing cuts, and dropped out of the top 125. Once his lifeline of being a major champion was exhausted, he was surviving by waiting at home for phone calls for sponsor exemptions or various loophole categories that get players into events as past champions, through lifetime earnings, etc.

Clearly, playing professional golf with such limited status is far from ideal when trying to both plan a schedule, as well as make a living.

Curtis had been jumping back and forth between the PGA Tour and the European Tur with his young family back in native Ohio.

Suddenly, lightning strikes two weeks ago in Texas. Ben gets into the field at the Valero Texas Open, and rides a wave of sudden good play to the finish line in the form of a two-shot victory.

How does this happen? Is there a lesson for each of us here?

The answer to the first question in my field is truly the most difficult one. Clearly, Curtis is blessed with talent. Deep inside, he never lost his belief in himself. Trust me — when your game goes south at that level, and you come back and win with your back against the wall, you're truly a special player.

The lesson for each of us is how strong and how absolutely powerful the human mind actually is. We know so little about its true capabilities or what its actual power really is. This I do know: I have watched the human brain do some both crazy good and crazy bad things to athletes in very extreme settings. This I do know about golf: Attitude is everything.

You can't do enough reading or research on how the mind works and how it affects performance if you want to both play your very best golf, but also manage your game when you're not at your very best mechanically.

I don't think Curtis' win was a sudden swing epiphany, but rather a few good swings that allowed the mind to find a confidence stored in a file deep in his brain that hadn't been opened in sometime. Something triggered a memory, a feeling, a cue that allowed him to perform.

We need to learn how to better and often recall these Zen-like occurrences.

There is an answer. We just have not learned it yet.

In the meantime, great win Ben Curtis. Awesome!

Tom Patri gives lessons at the Quarry on Immokalee Road, and is at Friar's Head in New York from May-December. Patri is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher. Visit Patri's website at www.tompatri.com, www.facebook.com/TomPatri or email him at tpatri@mindspring.com.

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