Nine years after he won his last of eight majors titles, Tom Watson discovered something on the range at Hilton Head—at 3:15 p.m. on a Tuesday, as he tells it—that changed forever how he hit the ball. Watson realized that by “swinging left” and feeling like he was coming way over the top, he could all but eliminate fat shots and blocks. At 42, he had an answer to a problem that had plagued him for years.
Stories like these pervade the professional ranks, epiphanies hitting players of all ages like falling bricks, dividing time in their minds into B.E. (“Before Enlightenment”) and A.E. Sadly, this process also happens in reverse. The only difference is when players’ games sour, the deterioration happens not instantly but slowly and painfully. Ralph Guldahl won the U.S. Open in 1937 and ’38 and the Masters in 1939. By 1941, he had retired from the Tour. Guldahl, it is said, analyzed away the magic while deconstructing his swing for an instruction book.
And therein lies the maddening rub: Change is like a drug that can produce wonderful, soaring highs, but also lonely, miserable lows. It’s intoxicating and irresistible, because within every golfer lies an insatiable appetite for improvement and, consequently, a deep-seeded desire to try something different, to find a new fix. (It’s likely the reason you read Golf Magazine.)
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