October 2013 Newsletter

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Captain Freddy


Freddy Couples just won his third straight President's Cup. That can't be a coincidence. We all know the ladies love Freddy but we can also say that players love playing great golf for him too. What is it about the guy that makes him so lovable?

I had a chance to play golf with Freddy during a practice round for the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. I was 23 and in my second year as a touring professional. When I made it through the sectional qualifying, I asked Sandy Tatum, past president of the USGA, if he would ask his friend Tom Watson if he would play a practice round with me. I got the call a couple of days later and I was instructed to meet Tom Watson on the driving range on Monday of U.S. Open week. I was so excited to play with my childhood idol. I shook Tom's hand that Monday morning and he asked me if I was ready to go. I gave an enthusiastic yes. He then turned to Freddy and asked if he was ready. Oh my gosh!!! I was about to tee it up with Tom and Freddy. Freddy was  #1 ranked player in the world and had just won the Masters.  Here I was, an unknown mini-tour player playing with golf royalty. 

As we walked down the first fairway with the biggest crowd I had ever seen, Freddy walked next to me and started asking me questions about myself. He chatted with me throughout the round as if I was one of his buddies.  We talked about sports, sprinkled in a little golf and just hung out at Pebble. You couldn't tell he was preparing for a major championship and the second leg of the grand slam. Freddy also was seeking advice from Watson throughout the round. When we got to the 13 hole, a tough par 3, he asked Tom what shot shape he liked on that holed. Tom responded that a high draw was the shot. Freddy said "I don't have that shot" and then proceeded to hit a weak fade right of the right bunker. I couldn't believe it. The best player in the world admitted to not having a high draw in his game. He is human just like the rest of us. 

Now, 21 years later, I realize the Freddy is just a real person who loves golf and enjoys people. Maybe that is all we need to win the Ryder Cup. Freddy for captain!!!!






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zander Tip zone

mental game   strategy tip   short game

One of my juniors, Michell Xie, just won the First Tee Open with her Champions Tour partner, Kirk Triplett. When I saw her this past week I asked her what she learned at the tournament. I was expecting her to be in awe and have some deep learning experience. Her first comment was that TV lies. These guys are not always great. They hit lots of bad shots. The broadcasters tend to show us the amazing shots and the players who are doing well that week giving us a false sense of reality. The interesting thing is that Kirk Triplett won the tournament and she still had that reaction. Her next comment was that they recover very well from their poor shots. I guess she did learn something profound. These players are not infallible. They make mistakes but they are mentally strong enough to recover. 


What is your "go to" shot? Do you draw it or fade it? Do you hit it high or low? My advice is to stick with your "go to" shot. And if you don't have one, you need to develop one. 

Zach Johnson may be the the best at this on tour. He is a drawer of the golf ball and rarely hits a fade. If the pin is on the left side of the green, it is a birdie opportunity as he will start the ball at the middle of the green and draw it to the pin. If the pin is on the right, he starts it at the pin and draws it to the middle of the green leaving him a longer birdie attempt. He sticks to his go to shot thereby having predictability to his shot shape. 

When you are under pressure, you need to know how to get your ball from point A to point B. How is your ball going to get there? 



One of my favorite short game games is 21. It is a 9 shot game. You pick 3 easy shots, 3 medium and 3 hard. Every shot should be  unique. Now go play them out and keep a running score. If you get 6 out of 9 up and down and score a three on the others, you have shot 21. Tom Pernice, a Champions Tour player,  plays this on the back nine of his practice rounds at tour events. He picks one shot per hole and plays 21. This is the ultimate short game practice as it simulates real golf. Hitting 10 chip shots from the same place with the same club off the same lie may be a good way to improve technique but it does not represent the true test of golf when you are out there. 


putting tip


There are so many different putting styles out there. So many that the USGA is banning one and there are still plenty to go around. I'm sure players will be creative in finding ways to make rolling that ball into the hole easier. Putter makers are also looking at ways to help us. The newest wave is counterbalanced putters. They feel like belly putters without anchoring. The one thing that all great putters have in common regardless of their style is distance control. We all have the tool that can help us with this. It is our eyes! Looking and glaring at the hole will help your brain take a mental picture of where the hole actually is. Earl Woods told Tiger putt to the picture. I am telling you that a snapshot is good but a video is better. Feed your brain the distance. Next time you are putting, do this exercise. Set up to putt, look at the hole, then stand up, close your eyes and walk to the hole. When you think you have reached it, put your putter head in the hole. How close did you get? Do you really know how hard to hit it?




I recommend warming up to hit balls rather than hitting balls to warm up. I usually leave the fitness angle of this newsletter to my fitness friends but I feel the need to chime in here. I am now 45 years old and I never think of swinging a club until my body is ready. It doesn't take that long to get ready but it makes a world of difference in preventing injury and enabling my body to perform. The Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) has done a wonderful job in training professional like myself and fitness professionals to help you with your golf fitness. A big part of this is getting your body ready to play. It would be nice to have a fitness trailer like they do on tour but short of that, find a TPI certified professional in your area and get a warm up routine. It will take less than 10 minutes but the return on the investment is pretty cool. 


leg action
health tips

One of the things I enjoy most about the game of golf is walking the fairways with my buddies, talking and laughing about all sorts of things, and enjoying the sights and sounds of the course. To me, it is so much more enjoyable than hopping in a golf cart and keeping my eyes glued to the cart path as my cart partner barely gets out a one-line joke by the time we arrive at our golf balls in the fairway. Walking is the way golf is meant to be played - and it is incredibly healthy!

My friend Dave has a Fitbit activity monitor which tracks his total daily steps. We tested out how many holes it would take for him to walk the recommended 10,000 daily steps when walking the golf course vs. riding it during our early morning rounds at Harding Park. While walking, he reached his 10,000 steps (approximately 5 miles) by the 12th hole whereas he never reached the 10,000 steps when we rode a cart. In fact, it took him until late that day before he texted me that he had finally accumulated his 10,000 step recommendation.

Walking helps to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes by managing body weight, reducing blood pressure, improving cholesterol profile, and generally making the body and mind feel good. According to a report coming out early next year from the U.S. Surgeon General, a good way to begin to improve one’s health and well-being is to start incorporate more walking. Why not start on the golf course? One typical round of golf will result in 7-8 miles of walking and over 600 calories of energy expenditure. If that sounds too much for you at this point, then walk for 9 holes and pick up a cart at the turn. Anything is better than nothing!

Until next month, I’ll see you on the fairways and greens - walking, I hope!

Dr. Chris

Dr. Christian Thompson is the owner of Thompson Fitness Solutions (www.thompsonfitnesssolutions.com) and has taught golf-specific fitness classes and clinics for the past 12 years. He has been on faculty in the Kinesiology Department at the University of San Francisco since 2002.