It’s so rare when somebody like him comes along, and it’s very, very early in his career, he has yet to win – and yet he wields star power like someone who’s won 12, 15 times and a couple of majors. It’s the way he goes about what he does, as much as what he does. He’s just a very appealing golfer. He plays fast. His golf swing is unique. He plays shots … I heard yesterday when it came time to warm up, the contrast to Ben Crane, he (ben crane) was out there, and he had all these devices, and he was going through a very regimented practice session before he played, which is fine. That’s what Ben Crane does and it works for him. And Ricky came out and hit 10 or 15 shots and was ready to go. And that’s what’s neat about the kid, is that he’s a sharp contrast to the sort of homogenized look that exists in golf today.
[Question: “What does that mean when people say he gets it?”] Well, he understands the best way to play golf – and you know, this is my opinion – is to go out and to try to hit shots. There’s this … it’s the “big lie” to me, that you can go out there and swing perfectly. And I understand why guys do it. Literally, they’re trying to play this game in the most organized fashion. There’s so much money out there at stake, and if you can stay on Tour for a long time, you can get ridiculously rich. So what are you gonna do? You’re gonna work out, and you’re gonna get a sports psychologist, and you’re gonna get the video camera, and you’re going to take all these lessons … you want everything to just be perfect. And Rickie’s like no, I’m going to go out and I’m going to hit golf shots. I’m going to go out and I’m going to hit it high and I’m gonna hit it low, I’m going to draw it, I’m going to fade it. And I think … I don’t think, I know it’s because of the way he was taught the game. His teacher was very much into hitting golf shots. And that’s why he plays fast. Because he’s not out there thinking about a pre-shot routine. And he’s not out there thinking about swing mechanics. He’s out there thinking about golf shots. And it’s … you know, look. We’re not ready to put him in the Hall of Fame yet, but … when you watch Michael Jordan play basketball, you’re watching a guy who yes, he spent all these hours practicing. But it looks like art. It just looks like an athlete. And Rickie, he just looks like an athlete when he plays golf.It meshes really well with something I've been thinking a lot about lately as I try to groove my new left-handed swing. And that's this: that the purpose of practice is to groove your swing to the extent where you don't have to think about it when you're out on the course competing. On the course, especially when the pressure's on, you don't want to be thinking about where your elbow is or what plane your swing is on or what your hands are doing. You want to be thinking about where you want the ball to go, what you want it to do.
Think about throwing a baseball. Sure, a throwing motion is a lot less complex than a golf swing (to me it seems that way, anyway), but the principle is the same. If you're scooping up a grounder and getting ready to make a throw to first, you're not thinking about you're technique, you're looking at that first baseman's mitt and thinking about the ball smacking into the center of it. It should be the same thing with the golf swing. Yes, that's a very hard thing to achieve. And it probably applies more to professionals, who spend hours and hours on the practice tee than to people like me who (historically) have done most of their "practice" out on the course. But if you want to really improve, it makes a lot of sense.
One of the things my new coach, PGA Professional Carl Unis, has told me is this: "An amateur practices until he gets it right; a professional practices until he can't get it wrong."
Exactly right. A lofty goal, to be sure, but something to strive for.