IT'S SUMMER, 1998. My playing career was going nowhere, I hadn't begun teaching and didn't have a job. My girlfriend, Somer--she's now my wife and mother of our two kids--and I are living in New York City, where she's interning at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. During the day I'm working as a photographer's assistant. At night, from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., I'm passing out night-club fliers on the back streets. There's nothing quite like the feeling of a person taking one of your fliers and then looking you in the eye as they drop it on the pavement. You never forget it. If you're wondering if coaching Jordan Spieth has robbed me of humility, the answer is, not yet.

LATE IN APRIL, after Jordan won the Masters, we were reflecting on his performance, his opening-round 64 in particular. It was pretty much flawless, one shot off tying the course record. It was one brilliant shot and great putt after another, nine birdies in all. The only hiccup came at the par-5 15th hole, where he hit a hybrid over the green and made his only bogey. Jordan isn't one to look back with regret, but that one time he said he should have hit the 4-iron instead of the hybrid. He pointed out that if the 4-iron lands on the green, he probably makes birdie and shoots 62. And if he makes an eagle, it's a 61, the best score in Masters history by two shots.

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AND THERE'S THE DIFFERENCE. Players used to come off an incredible round and recognize it as a magical career accomplishment. Today, guys like Jordan want another bite at the apple. To them it's like riding the world's scariest roller coaster--after they survive it, they can't wait to find one even bigger and scarier.

McCormick says Jordan Spieth used the "wedge-four-ways" drill to play Augusta's par 5s in 12 under par.

JORDAN LAID UP a lot on the par 5s at Augusta. On the back nine especially, he rarely went for the 13th and 15th in two. In our preparation, I came up with a practice exercise I call "wedge four ways." At 10-yard increments from 40 to 90 yards, I required that he hit shots on four trajectories: low, medium, high and extra high. All had to land no more than two yards short or long of the target. We then scored the number of attempts it took to pull all of these off. At the Masters, Jordan played the par 5s in 12 under par. He told me later, "You know that 'wedge-four-ways' drill? On every one of the par 5s I used a different trajectory from that game."

As a teacher, that's rewarding.

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THE NEW WAVE OF PLAYERS tends not to dwell on their failures. Disappointing episodes that once upon a time could be career-ending, they tend to move on and learn from. They're getting better at not giving scar tissue time to form. In Jordan's case, I look back at two low moments. The first was at the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay, after he'd won the 2009 U.S. Junior Amateur. The wheels came off in the second round, and he shot 83, failing to make it into match play. He was frustrated, irritated and distraught, blaming the wind, odd bounces. It wasn't merely a performance issue, it was a psychological maturity issue. He learned from that. He won the U.S. Junior a second time the following year. And you saw what he did the next time he saw Chambers Bay--he won the U.S. Open.

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SOON AFTER JORDAN won his first U.S. Junior, I set up a wedge contest with him, me and one of his high-school teammates. We played to the first six greens at Brook Hollow from wedge distance, taking turns choosing scenarios and playing the ball into the hole. I'm beating the kids, and to try to motivate them I'm saying stuff like, "How are you letting a washed-up club pro beat you guys?" On our last hole, the flag is on the front of the green, just beyond a false front that will cause the ball to roll back into a valley if you come up short. Very tough shot. I play first and put the ball 20 feet beyond the hole, making sure I avoid the false front. His buddy does the same thing. Now it's Jordan's turn, and he rips it right at the pin. He's always been aggressive, and this time it's a bad move. The ball grabs the false front and rolls 20 yards back into the valley. Now I really give it to him. "Where is your head, Jordan? You're the U.S. Junior champion, and right now your head must be on your girlfriend or your homework, because it's sure not in the game." He said, "Forget it. I'm still going to make birdie." I said, "There's no way you're holing it from down there. You're done." Jordan just stared at me. He's motivated. He looks the shot over very carefully. He takes his wedge and screams the ball low into the false front, where it takes one big bounce onto the green, checks, and trickles into the hole. He runs up on the green, taking these big bounding steps, and he points at me. "See? Don't tell me what I can or can't do." I came right back, "That's exactly the kind of attitude I wanted you to have when you showed up today."

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WHEN JORDAN was a young teenager, I gave him a green-reading test. Sneaking out in advance to a secondary practice green at Brook Hollow, I came up with series of long, super-hard putts, double-breakers over ridges to holes cut on the downhill side. Twisting sidehillers. Putts that were almost impossible. I sort of set him up to fail, which I knew would make my green-reading pronouncements more effective. Jordan then proceeded to stop every one of those putts within a few inches of the hole. He holed several of them. He said, "What's next?" I said, "Let's go hit some chips."

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I'M A BELIEVER IN "IMMERSION." I took up golf at 16 in my native Australia. As they say in Texas, I got "ate up by it." All I did was play, all day every day. There was no Internet, and the game wasn't quite as evolved there, so what I learned came from playing, reading magazines, books, encyclopedias and what little I saw on TV. I was largely self-taught and totally immersed, which is a good way to instill the things that are important in the golf swing. Formalized teaching is fantastic, but digging things out of the dirt gave me an important foundation that made me a better teacher.

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AT 17, with no competitive résumé at all, I wrote a bunch of letters to colleges in America seeking a scholarship. Not one Division I school offered me a scholarship--who would?--but I did get an offer from Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan. I went there in 1991 half expecting a setting like "The Wizard of Oz." I was alone, and there was some culture shock, but after two years I got good enough to get a scholarship at Texas Tech in Lubbock.

‘Stats are like bikinis: They show you a lot but don’t show you everything.’

YOU PUT A SHY, introverted kid from Australia into an exuberant environment like Texas Tech, and he's going to sprout some wings. A bunch of us were at a Texas Tech football game once. We were carrying on, and security came by and busted the kid sitting next to me for underage drinking.

I protested, which did not please one of the policemen. "Oh, yeah?" he said. "How old are you?" I answered, a little too smugly, "I'm 21." The policeman said, "You're under arrest for contributing to the delinquency of a minor." It was extreme, but standing in front of a judge scared the heck out of me. That was the end of what Australians call "larrikin behavior."

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I GRADUATED FROM TEXAS TECH and briefly went home to Australia. Lovesick for my college sweetheart and feeling I could play professionally, I came back to America and started playing in earnest.

I missed getting my tour card and played in a lot of mini-tour events without success. Driving from town to town, living out of my orange Volkswagen camper van, I was at loose ends. Reality finally hit me at a Nike Tour qualifier in Alabama. I played pretty good and shot one under. The guy I played with was the best ball-striker I'd ever played with. He shot seven under--and missed by one. I sat in my van, looked in the crystal ball of my future and thought, I will never be able to play this game for a living.

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STROKES OF LUCK are essential in golf and life. As I was preparing to put my degree in international business to work, I interviewed for a job at what is now the Lakes at Castle Hills, a club outside Dallas. The head pro who interviewed me coincidentally had gone to Texas Tech, and next thing I know, I'm behind the pro-shop counter. I get connected to the pro's friend over at Dallas Country Club, where I move and soon have an opportunity to start teaching. Without those chance encounters, who knows where I'd be today?

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MY FAVORITE BEN HOGAN QUOTE is, "If it's meant to be, it's up to me." He was describing the load that's on the player. Ultimately, everyone around the golfer is a step removed from what matters--getting the ball in the hole. I'm a navigator for Jordan. I provide a road map for him, a compass. And sometimes, only occasionally, I'm a fire extinguisher. It's an important role, but it's performed from the wings, not center stage.

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IN AUSTRALIA there's a phenomenon known as the "tall-poppy syndrome." If someone is perceived as becoming too successful, they'll tend to cut that person down to size. In America in general and the golf business specifically, it's exactly the opposite. People will try to lift you up. When I was starting out, I wrote letters to a bunch of the best teachers in America, asking if I could visit and observe them teaching. I received invitations from 25 of them, including Butch Harmon, Randy Smith, Chuck Cook, Craig Shankland, Dr. Rick Jensen and Cameron Doan. With all of them, I got the sense they enjoyed helping me. A feeling that a rising tide lifts all boats.

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ABOUT 10 YEARS AGO, I had a student, a young professional out of Tulane, who I worked very hard with. A tremendous hitter of the ball. He got through the first stage of Q school. The second stage was at Stonebridge Ranch north of Dallas. The final round, he's seven under and one stroke inside the cut line with one hole to play. In those days if you got to the final stage you were assured of a place to play, so his whole year was riding on it. There's water on the right, and he pushes it just a bit, and the wind takes it into the water. He makes double and misses by one. His swing didn't go haywire. He did very well in every aspect. But there was a tiny piece of the total-performance package missing. That kept me up a lot of nights. The most perplexing challenges still do.

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THE WORD USED TO BE "TEACHER." Today it's "coach," which is a better word because our role entails more than it used to. It wasn't long ago that teaching was strictly about technique. Now it's about holistic development of the player. Psychology. Practice. Statistical analysis. Game plan. Physical conditioning. Nutrition. Some of these areas are outside my expertise, but I'm astute enough to see if there are opportunities for improvement in these areas, and know where to send a player to get them. Imagine Jordan Spieth if he were to improve 1 percent in every area. A Jordan who overall is 10 percent better than he is right now. It's mind-boggling to contemplate. And very much possible.

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I HAVE SOME TEENAGE PLAYERS COMING UP, including Will Zalatoris and Austin Connelly, who underscore the nature of teaching young people versus adults. Will, a sophomore at Wake Forest, has won the U.S. Junior and Texas State Amateur, and Austin, 18, just played in the Byron Nelson. Coaching them is "teaching downstream." They have the current and momentum going their way, which, combined with their time and energy, produces amazing results. Coaching adults, on the other hand, is teaching upstream. They often don't have the time or physical prowess to improve dramatically. They have a romantic notion they're going to practice for six hours a week, but they get caught in some eddy of life, and it winds up being 30 minutes. It's all they can do to stay where they are.

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A GREAT FULL SWING has always been where it's at. I don't see a day where there will be more short-game and putting gurus than full-swing specialists. The full swing sells better, and teachers understandably are drawn to what sells. Then there's the golfer. He or she wants to hit it well, hit it far and have a good-looking swing. It's sexier. And it can be argued that better ball-striking is the quickest way to improvement.

‘I'm a navigator for Jordan. I provide a road map for him, a compass. And Sometimes, only occasionally, I'm a fire extinguisher.’

THEY SAY THE GRASS is always greener on the other side, but it can't be any greener for me than it is now. I've been named director of instruction at Trinity Forest Golf Club, which is under construction south of Dallas. It opens in 2016. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw are doing the design, and there will be nothing in Texas like it. They're building a teaching center that I get to run. Only a very small handful of teachers--Butch, Jim McLean and Hank Haney come to mind--have had schools with their imprint, so it's almost hard to believe it's happening to me.

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THE OTHER DAY JORDAN was trying out some new irons. We had a TrackMan there to measure everything carefully. Jordan got in a nice groove with these clubs. He's hitting a stock 6-iron, which in Dallas flies 196 to 198 yards. TrackMan measures carry distance to the tenth of a yard, and Jordan is hitting it so well that we start betting $5 a shot, while the ball is in the air for six seconds or so, exactly how far it will fly. Whack, followed by me shouting. "196.9" and Jordan answering, "197.6" Don't get me wrong, it's just a game. No human can guess to a tenth of a yard how far a ball will fly, even while it's in the air. But when a player like Jordan is on, you can come surprisingly close.

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DUSTIN JOHNSON hit a drive 406 yards this year during the WGC-Bridgestone at Firestone. If you think that's insane, I don't think we've seen anything yet. In the next 10 years, as golf continues to absorb athletes who would have played other sports, players are going to come along who are even bigger and stronger than Dustin, Bubba and Tony Finau. Size matters, and the percentage of physically large tour players is going to be much higher. You're going to see players hit the ball considerably farther than the longest guys do now. Well over 400 yards in many instances.

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TIGER WOODS HAS AN IMPORTANT ACCOMPLISHMENT left in his bag. If he comes back and wins, and it fuels him to one more great season, it will show other players that there's light beyond the abyss. The number of inspiring comeback stories will increase dramatically. What a gift that would be.

Photo by Sam Greenwoods/Getty Images

From five feet, he's ranked 183rd.... I think you'd find that a lot of those five-footers were extraordinarily difficult."

IN PUTTING ESPECIALLY, science will never surpass art. You can have all the science in the world, but without artistic perceptual skills that take into account an endless litany of environmental variables, you won't get the job done. I would rate the human perceptual end as high as 95 percent.

I appreciate the technology as a broad guide, but it's only a jumping-off point.

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WILL LEFT-HAND LOW become the predominant putting style in the future? I don't think so. I think we'll see a huge cross-section of methods--claws, arm-bars like Bernhard Langer used to win the 1993 Masters, maybe even sidesaddle. All stigmas will be removed.

I'm agnostic about them all.

All that matters is making the ball behave.

Are you an optimizer or a "satisficer"? The optimizer is someone who wants only the ideal, a model that will produce perfection. Tiger, for better and worse, is the epitome of that. The satisficer works within the swing or ball flight he has. He tries to get better but prefers to "dance with who brung him." Jim Furyk is the quintessential satisficer. My preference is for someone who optimizes when he practices and satisfices when he plays.

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SPEAKING OF OPTIMIZERS, when Nick Faldo rebuilt his swing under David Leadbetter and became one of the great technical wonders in history, I was convinced that was what I should teach. Working with students over the course of a couple of years, I found that approach was not getting results for my students. It lacked effectiveness and staying power. My students found it too demanding physically. They did not improve very quickly and thus had psychological limitations in terms of patience to get better. Faldo took two years working full time to achieve his mastery. My students had considerably less time than that. It just wasn't practical.

FOR CLOSE TO 60 YEARS, Ben Hogan's Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf has been considered the bible of golf. But so many great players do things that run contrary to his method, I have to conclude it's overrated.

It's a template from which you can pick and choose parts that work, but you don't have to adopt anywhere close to the whole thing. The things Hogan touts as absolutely critical aren't even necessary. I see almost no grips as weak as what Hogan espoused. The stances, postures, individual positions and sequences of movement are radically different from Hogan's, but just as effective. The problem with Five Lessons is the word "fundamentals." Hogan's fundamentals were far from being cornerstones, or even keystones. It was simply one great player's system that worked for him.

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I CALL IT "the 20-minute runway." You get 20 minutes to make a breakthrough with a student. If it doesn't happen, they're nodding at you. The nod is deadly because you know they're thinking, After this lesson is over I'm never working on this again. Quick results are imperative--you can get to the deeper swing challenges later.

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WORST BIT OF DOGMA: That the lower half of your body should resist against the upper half. Most players aren't flexible enough to make this approach work even remotely. If you're talking the bane of most golfers' existence--weak ball flight, poor contact and slice--this is it. The trouble is, it's so darned palatable conceptually. It looks so good. The temptation to try it is irresistible. But it's like crack. It might feel good, but it will kill you.

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I'M A BIG BELIEVER in tips. The quick thought that gets a player through a weekend or a single round. The kind of tip that can be applied during a warm-up as opposed to a full-on practice session.

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STATS ARE LIKE BIKINIS: They show you a lot but don't show you everything. Jordan ranks 36th in putting from six feet. From five feet, he's ranked 183rd. From four feet, he magically rises to 41st. Does it mean that he's vexed from five feet? No. If you looked a little deeper, I think you'd find that a lot of those five-footers were extraordinarily difficult.

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ON MONDAY during this year's PGA Championship, I did "The Golf Fix" live with Michael Breed on Golf Channel. A bunch of people were watching, and as I walked off the set a fellow handed me a flag and asked me to sign it. He clearly thought I was somebody famous because I was on TV. I tried to talk him out of it--I could picture him showing off the flag to his buddies when he got home and them asking, "Who is Cameron McCormick?"--but he kept insisting. So I went ahead and wrote my name, which takes up a lot of space. If you're the recipient of that flag and are reading this, please know it wasn't all my fault.


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