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I was incredibly lucky to be introduced to the game of golf at a young age I remember being about eight years old when I first caddied for my dad at the local golf course. I started by bashing the odd ball around, but to be honest I was pretty useless until I was about 12 or 13. My dad never really pushed me into taking lessons he just encouraged me to play my natural game for the first few years. So I basically had very few mechanical thoughts I just 'let it happen'.
Even though I wasn't brilliant from day one, I liked what I saw straight away and it wasn't long before I was well and truly hooked. I loved everything about the game of golf and preferred it to all the other sports I'd tried. Looking back, I think one of the things that appealed to me most was that I saw golf as more of a personal challenge, and I still do. just me against the course; I either win or I lose; I either shoot 65 or 75 it's all down to me. On the bad days, I've got no one else to blame but myself. And on the good days, I can enjoy the glory really enjoy it! knowing that I did it all myself. That's the way I like it to be.
My enjoyment and keenness for golf was boosted, of course, by the fact that I started to improve rapidly in my early teens. As I said, I didn't actually have a coach, I just tried to learn things by watching players like Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. I was small as a boy, so I couldn't always hit the ball a long way. However, I still managed to get down to scratch at the age of 14 and was enjoying the competitiveness and spirit of first team matches for my home club, Kempton Park, nearJohannesburg. A year later I was world champion in my age group, winning the junior championship in California. Success came quickly and I was getting into the habit of winning, although I had no idea at the time how much that experience would help me in the years to come.
Even so, it wasn't all golf back then. I was also playing plenty of other sports: I was a useful rugby player (No. 8, not surprisingly!) and I had also won the Senior Eastern Transvaal tennis championship in my early teens. My cricket wasn't too shabby, either. Bit by bit, though, golf started to put every other sport in the shade. I knew then that I wanted golf to be more than just a game for me.
When I eventually did turn pro in 1989 1 honestly didn't know what to expect. A glittering amateur career doesn't always convert into pound signs when you turn pro. After a couple of fairly quiet years, things started to go well. I was taking my golf far more seriously, practicing more and spending a little less time with my mates. I won the odd tournament here and there and that was a nice feeling, Then in 1992 1 went crazy I won the South African PGA, the South African Masters and the South African Open, the first person to win that trio of titles since Gary Player. That all happened in the space of a couple of months, and there were three other tournament wins thrown in for good measure, too. Of the II tournaments played on the 1992 South African Tour, I ended up winning six of them. What a year!
Then in the summer of 1992, 1 played in my first British Open (which was held at Muirfield, a really tough track) and opened Up with a 66 followed a 69. Not
bad for a first attempt. playing right up with the leaders at the weekend was another great learning experience and to be honest, come Sunday, I was pretty happy to finish fifth, just a handful of shots behind the eventual winner, Nick Faldo.
All in all, 1992 was a hell of a year. I was on a roll. I think it was then that I really felt I was capable of competing, and eventually beating, the best in the world. You have to prove those things to yourself, you have to really believe it, before it can actually happen.
A couple of years later I (lid prove it, making the big breakthrough by winning
my first major, the US Open at Oakmont. To be honest, of the four majors the US Open was the one I least expected to win, simply because it places so much emphasis on straight hitting off the tee and I have a tendency to hit the occasional loose tee-shot. But it certainly was a nice surprise.
The reason I tell you all this is simple. Because for all the time I was making great strides in the game, I can honestly say that my golf swing changed very little. Sure, it may be a little more consistent and solid these days, but basically it has stayed the same. I've always felt that I had great rhythm in my swing and, combined with a pretty decent technique, when I was in the groove I stayed in the groove. There was no need to change anything I just concentrated on my rhythm, made sure my set-up was always good and away I would go, And that's how it is today. Not too technical I just swing it freely and smoothly.
And yes, I can hit the ball a long way, too. Now, when I play in pro-ams, that's one, of the things I'm always being asked by club golfers. "How do you hit the ball so far with so little effort" they say. Well I can tell you now what I tell them on the course. There are no secrets no magic formula. And forget buying distance. Sure, it's important that you have properly fitted clubs, but the latest fancy driver won't make a scrap of difference unless you know how to swing it. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the point of impact: getting the club face to the ball, squarely, at the correct angle, on the correct path and, obviously, at speed.
That might sound like a lot of things to get right particularly when everything is happening in little more than a split-second but it's not as daunting as it sounds. The golf swing is like a chain reaction. Set up to the ball correctly and you're more likely to make a good takeaway. Make a good takeaway and your backswing will benefit. It really is a case of one good move leading to another. If you take the time to get the basics right, your chances of achieving good impact increase and those fundamentals apply to every club in the bag.
What I want to do in this book is show you how you can fit together all the pieces that make up a good golf swing. I'm going to help you get the basics right more often - and believe me, that'll give you a better looking swing and a more effective one. I'm going to help your rhythm, too. And I'll also demonstrate how you can start to hit it further and straighter. Put this all together and you've got what I'd call a winning combination.
All the time you're playing the game, though, I want you to have fun as well. I'm sure it's one of the secrets to me playing well. Before a round I often say to my caddie, Ricky Roberts, "let's just go out there and enjoy it". If you can do that, even in a tournament, then you're half way to playing better golf. This book will hopefully contribute the other half.
Keep swinging smoothly!