HAVEN, Wis. - Three of the players that sports psychologist Dr. Morris Pickens works with have won major championships in recent years: Zach Johnson (2007 Masters), Lucas Glover (2009 U.S. Open) and Stewart Cink (2009 British Open). As the final round of the 92nd PGA Championship unfolds, Pickens will be closely watching Johnson and a new pupil, 54-hole leader Nick Watney.
Pickens, a 41-year-old who studied under Dr. Bob Rotella and received his Ph.D from the University of Virginia in 1995, is part of the second generation of sport psychologists, but he believes there were mental coaches long before Rotella and Dr. Richard Coop started helping golfers in the 1970s.
"Before there was Rotella and Coop, there were just great coaches," Pickens said as he watched Watney tee off in the final round. "Dean Smith, John Wooden, Vince Lombardi - people didn't call them sports psychologists, they were in a coaching role. But good thinkin's good thinkin'. That's the way I look at it."
Watney talked Saturday night about wanting to try to keep the final round like any other - a task easier said than done, Pickens acknowledged. "It's very hard," Pickens said. "The knowledge is simple; the application is very difficult. But it's going to be difficult for everybody. Just because you're the guy in the lead doesn't mean it's going to be hard for me and easy for everybody else. There's a good chance Nick won't have the lead all day. He'll fall back, somebody will pass him."
A few minutes later, Watney double bogeyed the first hole while Dustin Johnson birdied it. Watney's three-shot lead was gone.
"Nick's realistic. He knows he's in more a battle today," Pickens said. "He knows he's got to compete, but he knows he's good enough to do it. Whether or not he gets it done or not, who knows? But I don't believe you have to have experience to pull one of these [majors] off. Zach didn't have any experience. Lucas didn't have any experience. Stewart had one time when he was close, but it was many years ago."
Win or lose, Watney will learn.
-- Bill Fields