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Ireland's Crop of Major Champions. The History of Royal St. Georges. Golf Psychology. Caddying for the World Number One. American Star Rickie Fowler.

Aired July 7, 2011 - 05:30:00   ET


SHANE O'DONOGHUE, HOST: The oldest Major. The first course outside Scotland ever to host the Open, and a certain young Irishman looking to make even more history of his own. Welcome to LIVING GOLF.

On this month's LIVING GOLF, we speak to the Open favorite, Rory McIlroy and look at why Ireland's becoming so successful at producing Major champions.


RORY MCILROY, 2011 US OPEN CHAMPION: I was sitting back at home after I missed my cut and thinking, you know what? If Graeme can do that, then there's no reason why I can't, either.


O'DONOGHUE: Learning golf psychology from the man who guided last year's Open champion.


KARL MORRIS, LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN'S GOLF PSYCHOLOGIST: The practice swing could be the biggest savior of people's game.


O'DONOGHUE: And learning caddying from the current world number one.


O'DONOGHUE: You've got a bit of a wipe.

LUKE DONALD, WORLD NUMBER ONE: Use the wet end of the --

O'DONOGHUE: I think it's the wet end.


O'DONOGHUE: Royal St. Georges, the history and the course, with two former champions here.

And the young American star, Rickie Fowler, on shot-making for links golf.

As Royal St. Georges stands ready to greet the best players in the world, it's a striking fact that three men from the comparatively small island of Ireland have now won 5 of the last 16 Majors. Coincidence of talent, or is there something else going on?

We went there in search of clues. And where better to start than with the new US Open champion.


MCILROY: When Padraig did what he did in 07 and 08, I'm sure Graeme said, "You know what? I'm going to be able to do that as well." And when Graeme did it last year at the US Open, I was sitting back at home after missing the cut and thinking, you know what? If Graeme can do that, then there's no reason why I can't, either.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): When Padraig Harrington won the Open in 2007, he was the first Irishman to win a Major since Fred Daly 60 years earlier.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON, WINNER OF THREE MAJORS IN 2007/2008: There's a very competitive golf circuit in Ireland at all levels. I see now some of the European amateurs are coming to Ireland to play in our championships because you learn a lot about how to play golf in Ireland.

It's not always perfect golfing conditions, but it really is a strong test of how to get the job done, and we're very good at that in Ireland.

MCILROY: The golf community of Ireland have been incredible for me because they funded me to go to different places all over the world as an amateur, play different tournaments, different golf courses, and that somehow prepared me for what life was going to be like as a pro.

O'DONOGHUE: As far as golf is concerned, there is no separate Northern Ireland and Irish Republic. The GUI, the Golfing Union of Ireland, organizes coaching and competitions across four provinces, east, west, north, and south.

It builds on the work of club pros, such as Michael Bannon, who's been Rory's coach since the age of 10.

MICHAEL BANNON, RORY MCILROY'S COACH: He was like a sponge. He soaked up the knowledge so quickly that if you taught him something one week, when I came back the next week, he had it fixed. And he was so keen to learn.

A fact there at their golf club, they get really, really good. There is a system where we can move them onto the provincial coaching where all the good players, underage players, will go on to develop their games. We have good facilities there, we have good video equipment, and very, very good coaches.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): And this is where Ireland's elite players come to hone their skills. Carton house, headquarters of the Golfing Union of Ireland and the pinnacle of Ireland's coaching pyramid.

Ireland's boys' team, practicing just before going to this week's European championships in Prague.

NEIL MANCHIP, GUI NATIONAL COACH: So, now, we're just going to do the skill where you pitch it into my hand after you putt a few shots. I'd like you to warm up before everyone tries that. You all right?

We have Junior Golf Ireland, which is our kind of development wing, which we start off with the kids very young, six, seven, eight years old, who are maybe aren't -- probably not even in clubs yet.

And then, from there, they might get onto provincial training squads, and then we also have assessment days of people who haven't been picked up yet of players that coaches or some of our amateur volunteers might think are really good and find them out that way.

And then, if they do well, they get onto national squads and onwards and upwards from there.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Irish Sports Council funding through the GUI helps Ireland's elite players tests themselves against the world's best in their age groups.

MANCHIP: You've just got to get out there and play against the best players. And I think once you've done that, then you really get -- if you win at every level, then you've got confidence to turn pro, then, and you meet guys that you played when you were 14 or 15 or 16 and so it's not overwhelming.

JACK HUME, AGE 17, WINNER OF 2010 ALL 4 PROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: You're playing against the best -- best young golfers in Europe, so you kind of match yourself up against them and realize what you need to improve on.

GAVIN MOYNIHAN, AGE 16, IRISH BOYS' TEAM: It's gotten a lot stronger over the last three years, I think. There's a lot more people taking off, now, even in my club I see a lot more people I wouldn't recognize, now, so it's actually a center for Ireland, McDowell will know it's you.

MANCHIP: So, a slight down slope, slight up slope, and flat over here.

O'DONOGHUE: Of course, without the raw talent, all the inspiration, coaching, and competition in the world won't produce Major champions. But as Harrington, Rory, and GMac head to Royal St. Georges, few expect to wait another 60 years for the next one to coming along.

PAUL MCGINLEY, THREE WINS ON THE EUROPEAN TOUR: There's a great infrastructure in place, now, in Ireland, so the Golf Union of Ireland deserve a lot of credit for that.

But at the same time, guys like Rory come along once in a lifetime, and we're just blessed that he happened to be from Ireland.

DARREN CLARKE, WINNER OF TWO WORLD GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS: I think we're going through, obviously, a very golden period right now for Irish golf. GMac and Rory, they've won two US Opens, probably the toughest one of all the Majors to win. And they've managed to do that, so I see no reason why the future still isn't as fantastic for Irish golf.

MCILROY: I'm sure there's going to be a lot of expectation and eyes on a few of the Irish players. It's going to be great. Still two more Majors left this season, and it would obviously be great to -- for me to have a good chance to win both of them. But if not me, then Graeme or Padraig again.


O'DONOGHUE: Still to come on LIVING GOLF, on the bag for the world number one, Luke Donald.


O'DONOGHUE: My apologies.


O'DONOGHUE: How golf psychology helped win last year's Open, and how it could help all of us.

And two former Open champions tell us what it takes to win here at Royal St. Georges.



O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF. Now, if you've ever wondered why there's a links course hosting the Open here in Kent, part of the answer is to be found up these medieval steps.

Because it was from this tower in 1887 that a Scotsman, Dr. Laidlaw Purves, looked out at the land over there towards the sea and said, "You know, you could build a really good links course, there." So, he did, even though he'd never built one before in his life.

JOHN BRAGG, LONG-STANDING MEMBER OF ROYAL ST. GEORGES GOLF CLUB: I think he thought he knew as much about about -- it was like everybody else, you know? They all know better than the experts. I think he knew better than the experts.

O'DONOGHUE: The design, has it changed much over those years?

BRAGG: Well, the holes have been lengthened by the tees being put a bit further back, because otherwise some of the bunkers wouldn't be in play at all nowadays for decent golfers.

And a number of the holes are exactly as they were. The 17th is very, very similar to what it was, and the 15, which is the best hole on the course, is hardly changed at all.

SANDY LYLE, BRITISH OPEN CHAMPION, ROYAL ST. GEORGES, 1985: When you play here, you know you're playing at a good, old, sturdy links course, which is going to test your patience to the absolute limit.

It can be a brute of a course as far as length-wise. You get the wind and, of course, you have the rough, usually, which we don't seem to have right now, which I think is great. I think it's going to make -- bring more people into the picture.

BEN CURTIS, BRITISH OPEN CHAMPION, ROYAL ST. GEORGES, 2003: It's a tough driving golf course, for one, and two, it may not look super long on the course, but it plays a little longer. But I would say the last five holes would be your most difficult holes.

LYLE: Right where I'm standing now is one of the sort of nasty areas where I was on my 72nd whole, which lead to a kind of fluffy, poor contact chip shot, which ran up to the top of the hill that you see behind me, and then rolled back almost to my feet.

Not the best moment in my life, right then, but managed to regroup and made a five out of it in the end, which turned out to be all right in the end.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Ben Curtis very nearly didn't add his name to the roll call of Royal St. Georges champions. Five under after 11 wholes in the final round, his mind started to wander.

CURTIS: I kind of woke up on 12 and realized that I was winning the golf tournament. We had a few-minute wait, and that was probably the worst thing that happened.

I remember standing there, looking on the scoreboard, there, "I'm in the lead of this." The nerves got a hold of me for a few holes.

O'DONOGHUE: It was only at the final tee that something triggered his mind to focus again. He noticed the same clock he and his caddy had seen exactly a week earlier during a practice round.

CURTIS: Sure enough, I look up, and I had to remind him that it was almost to the exact same -- it was within five minutes of each other that we were standing on that tee exactly one week earlier.

And it kind of got me refocused again a bit more because of that. You never want to think about holding that trophy before you actually do.


O'DONOGHUE: Now, Ben's unusual amongst top players in that he's never worked with a psychologist. Neither had last year's winner Louis Oosthuizen until four weeks before the championship at St. Andrews. His manager felt that he needed to learn to focus. The rest if history.


LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN, 2010 BRITISH OPEN CHAMPION: What he taught me was thinking was on the course is to just what is the best option right now and not in three or four holes.

And it just changes everything. You go much more relaxed the round and not feeling all the pressure. To me it made all the difference.

O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): Louis famously used a red dot on his glove to trigger his concentration. But how did psychologist Karl Morris train him to focus when he looked at it? And could he help the rest of us?

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): Hey, Karl, how are you?

MORRIS: Hi, Shane. Good to see you.

O'DONOGHUE: And great to see you, too.

MORRIS: Come on in.


MORRIS: In the military, I believe they call it an SOP, standard operating procedure. So, even in the most intensive situations, they are trained that they know exactly, "I'm going to do this, this, this, and this."

And I remember hearing about that, I thought, if people can be trained in a life -- literally a life or death situation to keep their mind focused on the process, surely to goodness we should be able to do it with golf.

You basically absorb in your mind in this task at hand. The oldest cliche in the game is play cut at a time, but that's almost the ultimate skill.

Try and imagine that each golf shot is kind of separated by a line, and behind the line, here, this is where the brain's pretty active. You're going to be doing some thinking here, you're going to be getting a clear picture of the shot.

And then, for me, this is now the most important bit and the most misunderstood bit. The practice swing could be the biggest savior of people's games. This is the time when you should make a practice swing where you are consciously thinking about the moves that you want in the swing.

But make it a practice swing that's realistic. Don't have the club up in the air and wafting from side to side. Do exactly what you're going to do on that golf ball.

OK. Now, in essence, all of the thinking is over. We've got that in the bank. We've done all of the thinking. It's time to actually turn this bit over, now, to the kind of motor cortex of your brain, the instinctive part of your brain.

So, you step over that line, and it really is about that one point. You need to focus on one thing. My suggestion would be your focus should be very much on the target once you step over that line.

Just like that.

The most important thing that you did, there, you gave your brain, your mind a structure to work with. You gave yourself a series of things to do, so your body, then, takes over.

Now, that doesn't guarantee good shots, but you'll find it will massively increase the chances.


O'DONOGHUE: Karl Morris. Of course, the closest working relationship that these Open contenders will have is with their caddy. And on a course as demanding as this, that second opinion becomes even more vital.

But how difficult can it really be, carrying someone else's bag? Well, world number one Luke Donald gave me the chance to find out.


MICHAEL MASON, DANNY WILLETT'S CADDY: It's not a science. It's nothing you can learn out of a book. It is harder than what people think.

BILLY FOSTER, LEE WESTWOOD'S CADDY: I used to get overnight buses, sleep on trains. I've slept in a bus station, stayed in horrible places.

KEN COMBOY, GRAEME MCDOWELL'S CADDY: I think over the years, probably the worst moment was being sacked on the eve of the Ryder Cup.

FOSTER: You couldn't make a living at the game. Even if your man finishes top ten, you'd probably -- you're lucky to break even. So, today, the modern caddy's spoiled rotten, but at least I appreciate it.

PETE FUTCHER, CADDIED FOR PAUL MCGINLEY: It's very, very competitive. It's difficult, yes. There are loads of people that want to do this. Some very bright people out there, now, a really good, good bunch of guys, and yes, getting good jobs is really tough.

O'DONOGHUE: Well, John, you do caddy for Luke Donald, one of the best players in the world. What's it like working alongside him?

JOHN MCCLAREN, LUKE DONALD'S CADDY: It's actually a real treat. Luke's so hard-working, it's so easy to respect him. He practices hard, he trains hard. He's very diligent. So, it's a real enjoyable working environment.

O'DONOGHUE: Any advice you'd like to give me?

MCCLAREN: Hopefully you have your yardage book.


MCCLAREN: Pretty important that you don't lose the towel. Try not to leave the bag unattended. Make your calculations accurate.

O'DONOGHUE: That the wrong yardage?

MCCLAREN: I've got one other thing.


MCCLAREN: It's all part of the caddy thing. You'll probably need a pair of shorts.


MCCLAREN: Look around and --

O'DONOGHUE: I thought I was going to get away with that bit.

MCCLAREN: Unfortunately not.

DONALD: Fits you like a dream.

O'DONOGHUE: Thank you. How am I doing?

DONALD: Yes, you're in good form, there.

O'DONOGHUE: Well, I'm here on the 15th at Wentworth. Great to be with my new employer, Luke Donald.

DONALD: For a couple of holes. Good to see you.

O'DONOGHUE: So, what's the key to being a good caddy, in your view?

DONALD: Well, I think communication is number one. You're playing against the course and all the other competitors, but he's on your side, so you better get along.

O'DONOGHUE: Well, I promise to do my very best for you. John is going to be on standby as well, just monitoring my progress over the next few holes. And we'll be kind of benefiting from his experience, as well, and getting a few insights in how to best caddy for an elite player like Luke Donald.

MCCLAREN: You need the clubs, that's the first bit.


O'DONOGHUE: This is a whole new ballgame.

There you go. Find one in there.

DONALD: Should be some in there, in this pocket.

O'DONOGHUE: So you want to be around there.

DONALD: You need to carry that, I think, downwind. That's the rescue running out.

O'DONOGHUE: First take here -- My apologies.

MCCLAREN: A lot of the time, you're reading probably number one is body language. You start watching the way he moves, whether he starts to lose his posture somewhat.

I often find just lighthearted chat with him, and then we go back to just probably within a hundred yards of the ball, start really focusing on what we're trying to achieve.

I say you've done pretty well.

O'DONOGHUE: Very nicely done.


O'DONOGHUE: This is for you. Happy enough, so -- you've got a bit of a wipe?

DONALD: Use the wet end of the --

O'DONOGHUE: I think it's the wet end.

DONALD: I fell in the trap about three or four years ago. I was playing very well in 2006, had ten top tens, or whatever, I won the Honda Classic. And I got number six or seven in the world at that point, and felt like, if I was going to get to number one, I had to hit it further.

And my coach never thought I needed to hit it further, but he got my swing a little bit out of position, and it's taken three or four years to really get it back to a place where I feel a little bit more in control.

O'DONOGHUE: Now, we're in the bunker.

MCCLAREN: Not always a bad thing for Mr. Donald.

O'DONOGHUE: Yes, one of the best out of the sand, isn't he?

MCCLAREN: You're doing a great job.

O'DONOGHUE: You had been with your brother, Christian, for such a long time, though --

DONALD: I have.

O'DONOGHUE: -- since you turned pro, pretty much.

DONALD: I have. He was my only caddy up until then. I was taking some of my frustrations out on him, and it was affecting our lives as brothers, and I'd rather have him as a brother than a caddy.

That's number two.

O'DONOGHUE: Do you love the challenge of links, or is it something that you -- ?

DONALD: I do. I'm growing more and more accustomed do it. That's why preparation for it is pretty important, because really, that's the only tournament during the year that we play on links golf.

O'DONOGHUE: Well, there aren't too many trees in Royal St. Georges, but we're near enough to a few here in Wentworth.

DONALD: OK. We're out.

O'DONOGHUE: I'm going to make it up to you.

DONALD: We have --

O'DONOGHUE: You're going to need to move that twig.

DONALD: No. I can go over it.

O'DONOGHUE: That was great one. Save my bacon there, boss.

Going to make it three?

DONALD: This is the three wood, yes. I'm going to give it a go, I think.

O'DONOGHUE: Oh. I didn't want to talk to it.

DONALD: There was a bit of bent wrist, I think, going into that. You probably should have told me to lay up.


DONALD: Because I'm one of the best wedge players in the world, and I would've got up and down the pipe, saved my par.

O'DONOGHUE: Drop back.


O'DONOGHUE: Well done, Luke.

DONALD: Thank you.

MCCLAREN: Well done, mate.

O'DONOGHUE: Thank you very much, John, thank you very much, Luke.

DONALD: You're welcome.

O'DONOGHUE: It's been a pleasure. It's been tough at times, but a great experience caddying for one of the best players in the world, Luke Donald.


O'DONOGHUE: Still to come on LIVING GOLF, Rickie Fowler shows us how he's preparing for Royal St. Georges.


O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF. Now, while most of the favorites for this year's Open are European, there is, as ever, a strong American challenge.

Their young star, Rickie Fowler, impressed everyone when he was last in the UK at the Ryder Cup. So, we asked him to show us one of the shots that he's been practicing for the wind-swept links here at Royal St. Georges.


O'DONOGHUE: How important is a stinger shot when it comes to having that as part of your armory, Rickie?

RICKIE FOWLER, TIED FOR 14TH, 2010 BRITISH OPEN: Well, it definitely helps on, especially, a shot like this, where you're going back in the wind, the fairway's a bit tighter, and you're trying to just get the ball in play and move on from there.

Technique-wise, you're trying to stay on top of the ball as much as you can and really get the ball -- the club driving into the ball and getting the ball starting off on a low flight.

O'DONOGHUE: It's a par five here, just over 500 yards. There's been a lot of trouble down the right hand side, so you want to keep away from that. There's a lot of heavy bunkering on the left hand side.


O'DONOGHUE: So, you're obviously teeing it lower.

FOWLER: I usually tee it about the same, actually.


FOWLER: Yes. Having the ball too low, it may actually hit the ground in front of me a little bit, so we'll keep it up off the ground a little bit.


FOWLER: Usually, I'm going to try and set the club down with the handle forward, creating -- taking some of the loft off the club.


FOWLER: And I'm going to try and choke up a little bit, here.

O'DONOGHUE: So, you've gone down the shaft a little.

FOWLER: And I would stick it a little bit back in the stance. And then, really, from here I'm trying to come down on the ball, and maybe a bit of a shorter follow-through, just because of how low it is. So --

O'DONOGHUE: So, it's like a punch.

FOWLER: A little bit. You just want to stay aggressive through the ball.

O'DONOGHUE: Wow. That's only about 20 feet in the air.

FOWLER: It doesn't get very high if you hit it right.

O'DONOGHUE: So, can you actually shape it as well?


O'DONOGHUE: Would you often be called to play a draw or a more pronounced cut?

FOWLER: For me to hit a draw, usually, all I'm going to try and do is shut the club down a little bit at address. Get myself -- what that really does is get me in a stronger grip, and that'll help release the club a little bit and get a little draw.

O'DONOGHUE: On a windy Thursday, Friday Saturday or Sunday at Royal St. George's this year, that could be a really good shot to play.

FOWLER: I might need that quite a bit.

O'DONOGHUE: Beautiful.

FOWLER: It's your turn, Shane.

O'DONOGHUE: OK, Rick. So, let's just go through it very quickly.

FOWLER: All right.

O'DONOGHUE: It's just interesting to see you turn --


O'DONOGHUE: -- an actual club pass. If you want to play that draw, you're not doing anything pronounced with your feet at all.

FOWLER: That'll help you get really steep so you're not hitting a lot of grass behind it.

O'DONOGHUE: Here we go.

Well, there's potential.

FOWLER: There's potential. That was a good flight on it.

O'DONOGHUE: But I won't be taking it to the PGA tour right now.


O'DONOGHUE: Rickie Fowler, who dearly would love to become the next young talent to claim a Major.

Well, that's it for this edition of LIVING GOLF. I'll be bringing you all the news from the Open here on CNN.

And on next month's show, we'll be focusing on France, host for the 2018 Ryder Cup.

Don't forget, all our reports are online, and you can follow what we're up to on Twitter. But for now, from Royal St. Georges, it's good- bye.