Interview
Dr. Bob Rotella
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Watching TV can improve your golf during lockdown
Bob Rotella Henrik Stenson The Open

With many golfers around the world potentially facing periods away from the course due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the offseason, it is a difficult time for players to improve their golf game.

However, Dr. Bob Rotella, the sports psychologist who has contributed to 12 Open Championship triumphs from 10 players in the past 30 years, believes you can vastly improve your golf game without striking a single shot in anger.

Time spent in your home can still be spent productively in improving and sharpening your mind, Rotella suggests.

“What’s going on in golf and in every sport,” Rotella said, “is that players are spending more and more time just sitting in a chair, lying in bed and visualizing themselves playing great.

“It’s not only playing great, and seeing yourself hit shots, but it’s going over in your mind every situation you could ever face on a golf course, and going over in your mind how you would like to ideally respond to that situation.”

“You need to watch golf as a player instead of a fan. I want you to be actively involved in the telecast. That’s how you get better in the offseason and lockdown.” Dr. Bob ROtella

In addition to round visualisation, Rotella believes you can train your mind while enjoying competitive golf on television, or while watching Official Films from past Open Championships.

“The average golf fan needs to watch golf as a player instead of as a fan,” Rotella said, “and what I mean by that is I want you to be actively involved in the telecast.”

“If Rory (McIlroy) and Padraig (Harrington) and Darren (Clarke) are in the last group on the weekend, sit and watch the telecast and say: ‘OK, I’m going to pretend that I’m Rory, and I’ve got a one-shot lead.’ And think about, ‘where do I want my mind when I’m going to the range warming up?’

“‘Where do I want my mind when I’m on the putting green? Where do I want my mind on the first tee shot. What happens if suddenly Padraig birdies the first three holes and now I’m two back? How do I want to handle that, how am I going to respond to that situation?’

“Go through the whole round very actively taking part in the round as if you’re there, and you’re playing in the tournament, so that you can learn from other people’s experiences. You can learn a lot watching other people play golf, if you’re actively involved.”

Thinking outside of the box, as Rotella suggests by using the example of two former Open Champions, will open new avenues and shed new light on how the game is successfully played.

“If you don’t (engage), then you’ll do what most fans do,” Rotella said. “If you looked at Tiger and Phil during their prime, they were probably the two most crooked drivers of the golf ball in history, and they dominated the game for 20 years. Then the next month every magazine would have a story about how to swing like Tiger or Phil. How in God’s name did that become the story?

“The story should have been about their attitude, about their short game, about their ability to score, hitting it all over the place. Phil’s whole approach was, ‘I’m going to rip driver, and when it goes in the woods, I’m going to go and have fun scoring from the woods’.

“Think about it, they’re writing a story about how to swing like Tiger, but when Tiger played in a tournament most of the time, he hit four drivers because he knew he couldn’t hit a driver straight, and he’d go to a different swing and just hit a stinger, got it in play 20 yards behind everyone else, and then went and kicked your butt.

“But that’s not what most people that are just fans of golf are learning from watching the round, and if you want to learn something from watching golf, then you have to be actively involved and actually pay attention to how many fairways and greens they missed and how they got it up and down, and how they scored!

“That’s how you get better in the offseason and lockdown when you can’t get outside and play.”