[Ed. note: This past Sunday, just before the final round of the U.S. Open got underway in earnest, CBS golf commentator Gary McCord and The Great White Shank got together for a little golf talk following TGWS's latest trip to the Superstition Springs driving range.]
Shank, last year at this time, almost to this very day, you and I sat at this same same table overlooking the 18th green here at Superstition Springs Golf Club and talked about the state of your game, and you politely asked I not write about it because you were struggling so badly with your swing. Today I’m watching you absolutely stripe the ball – you look like a completely different golfer! What’s up with that?
Well, Gary, this game is all about tradition, honor, and integrity. What can I say except that it’s been a very long process and taken a lot of hard work, self-examination, and introspection to get to the point where I am now. I’m just glad to see all the hard work starting to pay off.
You broke 100 for the first time in a Goodboys Invitational in last year’s final round, then followed it up a short time later back here in Arizona with a 96. But then we hear that just a few months ago you blew up your swing completely. Why?
Well, Gary, I’d go to the range, perhaps hit a decent ball or two, but then find myself pushing the ball to the left, or even shanking, and while I could sort of get myself back on track, I just got tired of struggling with my swing, all the time.
So tell me about that moment – was it a case where you heard some angelic voice from heaven, or found a message lying at the bottom of a fifth of Johnny Walker Red?
(Chuckles) I wish it were that easy, Gary. A couple of months ago, after a few decent weeks of practice, I’d had a rough day out here at the range pushing, slicing, hitting it fat, hitting it thin, chunking it – everything but hitting it where and how I wanted to. So there I am back home, lying on my bed and staring at the ceiling fan going round and round when the thought occurred to me about starting over – like from the very first time I ever held a club in my life…
Most sane people would have thought about taking a lesson…
A lesson? Listen, Gary – life is my lesson. What was a pro going to tell me? That I stunk at golf? Hell, I knew that already. And they say the first step to recovery is recognizing the problem. I jumped off the bed, grabbed a 8-iron, and headed out to my front lawn, where all I did for an hour was work on my address and grip, squaring up, then taking easy practice swings and imagining myself making solid contact. And from that point, each week it’s been getting better and better.
You’ve been quoted as saying you’re not relearning how to swing a golf club so much as learning how to “feel” and “see” a golf swing. Can you explain?
Simply put, I’m rewiring my golf brain. For so long I’d played such poor golf and generated so many bad memories that, no matter how well I might have been playing, I was always waiting for the shoe to drop and the roof to cave in. And inevitably it would. I was a walking, talking self-fulfilling prophecy out there, y’know? So what I’m doing now is slowly replacing those bad memories – and equally bad habits – with the experiences of feeling the club make solid contact and seeing the results of a good golf shot. And not just once every four or five shots, but repeatedly.
I noticed today that after you hit twenty balls (and I counted 18 of them hit right on the screws), you spent the next ten minutes just hitting pitch shots to 85 yards with a variety of clubs – pitching wedge, 8-iron, 6-iron. What’s the strategy there?
It’s all about rewiring my golf brain to feel what it’s like to make solid contact with the ball repeatedly so it becomes virtually second nature. You have to understand, you’re talking to The Great White Shank here – you’re not talking a Lee Trevino, or Phil Mickelson, or even a “Vegas” Clark or “Cubby” Myerow. There’s a lot of discipline and positive reinforcement needing to happen here, and I’ve found one way to accomplish that is to finish up with a drill that rewards the good habits I’ve been following by hopefully instilling a positive take-away for the next time I pick up a club.
The 2011 Goodboys Invitational is less than a month away. What are your expectations? What would be a good scoring weekend for you?
Gary, my goal this year is to simply keep doing what I’m doing and let the results end up as they may. I’m looking forward to seeing how my swing holds up under the bone-crushing tension of a Goodboys Invitational weekend. I’ve got good positive thing going here, and I’m looking forward to seeing if I can keep it up. I’ve never hit the ball better in my life, so I’m feeling very confident.
Well, best of luck to you Great White Shank, we’ll be watching all the Goodboys here at CBS Sports throughout the weekend as the 21st annual Goodboys Invitational unfolds.
Thanks, Gary, the same to our friends at CBS Sports as well.