Golf is hard.
No matter how easy somebody like Tiger Woods or Ernie Els makes it look, a golf swing is a complicated piece of machinery, and that's without all the mental and emotional baggage that comes with being in contention -- or just life in general. Tour players don't even have the luxury of being able to switch it off and simply react to the ball athletically like a tennis player can. After every shot, he has a good two- or three-minute walk and wait to think about what to do next.
That's what makes the relationship between tour players and their teachers so fascinating. I supervise Golf Digest's 50 Greatest Teachers survey, which appears in the August 2007 issue, and every time that magazine lands, I get outraged calls from teachers all over the country. They tell me how much more "stuff" they know than the guy who's 5th, 10th, 28th or 50th on the list. But the true genius of guys who have consistent success with tour players is the understanding that teaching elite athletes is more psychology than physics. Sure, they're helping with mechanical adjustments. But a tour player is, by nature, a sensitive and self-absorbed person who is looking for a way to feel complete confidence in what he's doing. I'd argue that getting a guy to have full confidence in faulty mechanics is a much better predictor for tournament success than getting a player to make a "perfect" swing. In other words, it's not "Let's try this and see if it works."
All these guys are solid ball-strikers. The mental game is what separates the top 10 from the bottom 130. Because there's so much psychology involved -- and the dollar stakes are so high -- it's incredibly entertaining to watch the dynamic between a player and his instructor. Which current duos have the most flavor? Here are my top five: