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The Tour Report

September 5 2013

11:28 AM

On the Mark: Focus on play, not swing

By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM

With the 2013 FedExCup Playoffs in full swing, the golf world has its eyes trained on the world’s best as they jockey for position and try to advance to the season-ending TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in Atlanta in late September.

Meanwhile a playoff system with an entirely different dynamic commenced on the Web.com Tour with the Finals. Players who lost their playing privileges on the PGA TOUR and the top 2013 players from the Web.com Tour converged at Sycamore Hills GC at The Hotel Fitness Championship in Fort Wayne, Ind.

The pressure of earning a card for the 2013-2014 PGA TOUR season was telling and the storylines abounded. In the end a whirlwind week ended with my younger brother, Trevor, making a 20-footer for birdie on the final green to post 20-under par – a score good enough to nip Patrick Cantlay by one stroke.

It was a welcome end to a period of time when the 2008 Masters champion went winless as he struggled with injuries and, as a result, his game. In my post-tournament debrief with Trevor, he certainly seemed excited at the victory, but to be honest an overall sense of relief appeared to resonate more than anything else.

Ask any golfer who has battled with form, and searched for answers to the often-times puzzling questions that tournament golf poses, about how difficult it is to bounce back and how one begins to questions everything about the game and I am convinced you will get a similar answer. An answer that is best summarized by a statement made by Paul Azinger, a guy whose opinion I highly respect, a few years ago. Azinger mentioned that he felt like when he was playing well it seemed like there was no way he could ever play badly. However when he was playing badly it seemed as if there was no way he would ever play well again.

To me that best describes the challenge of mastering the vexing and volatile nature of the game, and that is golf. Trevor’s return to the winner’s enclosure brings a wonderful lesson that I wish to share as I am convinced it can help any golfer who happens to be struggling with form.

In other words, play golf, not "golf-swing." My brother has always been well respected for his dynamic, powerful and technically sound golf swing. I must admit that I love to watch him at full flight as there are few in the game that can hit irons as crisply as he can (a reason I believe is key to his success at Augusta National). This is both a positive and a negative in my opinion as his desire to improve and his desire to maintain the elegance and effectiveness of his swing sometimes leads to an over-analysis of its elements.

One can imagine then that as he battled injury and form the emphasis on improving his swing and neatening up minute areas of bother become a priority. This had the unfortunate end in him eventually trying to make perfect swings in competition instead of just getting out there and responding to each shot’s challenge and playing the game. It became a case of playing “golf-swing” instead of playing golf.

Eventually, Trevor saw the proverbial error of his ways and he decided to get out there at the Canadian Open and just hit each shot on its merit. If the shot called for a draw he would set up and respond with a draw-biased swing. If the shot called for a fade he would fade the ball and so on. It loosened up the pressure he had put on himself and he started to notice the improvement in the strike quality and control of the shots.  His search for perfection went from trying to perfect the swing to trying to perfect the shot. He admitted this to me on the range at the Wyndham Championship and it sounded like a choir of angels. He began to show the form that we all know he is capable of and it culminated in a final round of 66 and a long-awaited title.

Indeed he mentioned to me on the phone, “I hit two draws off the tee on the final three holes.” That said to me that Trevor is back. He is shaping shots and varying the trajectories of his golf shots again. He is playing golf and not “golf-swing.” I recommend you try it, too.

Good luck.


Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.