Brian Mogg's Feb. 11 starts at 4:45 a.m. with the jarring buzz of
his bedside alarm. The 42-year-old swing coach gets up quietly so
as not to disturb his wife, Vina, and their four children. He
shaves, fixes himself a bowl of cereal and stuffs a few final
items into his suitcase. Forty minutes later he parks at Orlando
International Airport and makes his way to the Delta concourse,
where he gets mixed news: He has a first-class upgrade to Dallas,
but he will have to endure a cramped seat in coach from Dallas to
San Diego. ¬∂ "John Cook isn't going to play," Mogg says, taking a
seat and reviewing his client list. "He withdrew from Pebble with
a bad back, and it sounds as if it's fairly serious. Bart Bryant
probably won't play, either. He's fifth or sixth alternate."
Pulling out his cellphone, Mogg begins pushing buttons with his
right thumb, scrolling through messages. "I still have Skip and
the two Davids. It'll be frantic."
Three hours later, as he gets off the plane in Dallas, Mogg turns
on another hand-held device--a BlackBerry--and begins reading
e-mails from other clients. A 10-handicapper from Orlando says he
has back-to-back board meetings and needs to reschedule his
lesson. A mini-tour player from Wisconsin asks about a swing
drill. A corporate-event coordinator provides details about a
series of clinics that Mogg will give in April in the Caribbean.
"The pros that I work with are basically friends who live in the
Orlando area," Mogg says. "Some pay me a small percentage of what
they earn. Some are more comfortable paying on an hourly basis.
But you never want to see the business side trespass on the
The San Diego trip is one of about 15 journeys Mogg makes to Tour
events every year--a routine that would have horrified Tommy
Armour, the legendary player and teacher who watched his pupils
hit balls while he sipped cocktails under a patio umbrella. "You
can't simply be a good swinger of the club anymore," Mogg
explains. "There's more emphasis on fitness and technology, the
mental approach. As a teacher I have to wear more hats than I did
even 10 years ago." Mogg has his cellphone to his ear as he
boards his connecting flight.
At 11:40 a.m. Pacific standard time, Mogg unzips his suitcase in
a parking garage at Torrey Pines, site of the Buick Invitational.
"This is the part that sucks," he says, balancing on one leg to
put on a golf shoe. "When I was a Tour player, I could put all my
stuff in a locker." Around his neck hangs his credential, a
yellow card bearing his photograph and the word INSTRUCTOR. It's
a passable description and less grandiose than swing guru, a term
often applied to high-profile teachers like Butch Harmon and
David Leadbetter. "I prefer to be called a coach," Mogg says. "A
coach prepares his players to play well, and that's what I do."
From the garage Mogg walks to the putting green, where there's a
throng of players and caddies. He quickly spots David Peoples, a
44-year-old pro whose Tour career peaked in the early '90s with a
couple of wins. In the few minutes before Peoples goes off to
play in the Wednesday pro-am, the two men talk about the new Ping
irons that Peoples has just put in his bag. "David had played
with an old set for 10 or 15 years, but now he works out a lot,"
Mogg says. "As he's gotten stronger the clubs effectively have
gotten lighter and he had trouble feeling the clubhead. With
these new irons he feels the club better, he swings faster, and
he's a little more in sync." Peoples nods and says, "After one
hole I knew it was the right set."
From the putting green Mogg walks uphill to the driving range.
Failing to find David Morland among the 20 or so pros, Mogg steps
into one of the equipment trailers for a word with the club
techs. (Mogg has an endorsement deal with Nike.) Stepping back
out, he presses his cellphone to his ear and calls Morland, who
is on his way back from a visit to the TaylorMade test center in
nearby Carlsbad. Morland's agenda can be guessed at from Mogg's
end of the conversation: "Weight is getting on the toes....
Right.... Yep, yep.... Then you raise up.... O.K., that makes
After checking a copy of the pro-am pairings, Mogg scrambles down
a steep, dusty slope to the 18th tee of the North course. He gets
there in time to stand behind Skip Kendall as the 39-year-old
smacks a drive using every ounce of his 5'8", 150-pound body--a
maneuver that resembles a sailor tossing a duffel bag into an
Walking up the fairway with Kendall, Mogg offers his critique:
"Too slow. You don't have the speed and the momentum. It's only
one swing, but that's what I see." Kendall nods, having heard it
"When Skip is playing well, his swing looks fast," Mogg says.
"When he's playing poorly, his swing looks slow."
One swing seems a small sample for such sweeping conclusions, but
that's often all a good coach needs to diagnose a familiar swing.
During a practice round at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in
January, Mogg told Kendall to extend his arms a bit more in his
setup. One of those comic-strip bulbs lit up over Kendall's head,
and he went on to lose in a playoff to Phil Mickelson. "It was a
real little thing," Kendall says, "but something I would've
missed if Brian hadn't seen it. That was big."
Kendall's caddie, Heath Holt, is another Mogg fan. Watching the
coach rake a greenside bunker, Holt says, "It's fine to take
lessons from a big-name guy, but you have to trust him or it's no
good. Skip trusts Brian as a friend, and he respects him as a
Mogg, whose best finish on Tour was a second at the 1988 Southern
Farm Bureau Classic, snorts at the compliment and says, "As a
Tour player I was constantly getting in my own way. I missed a
lot of cuts by one or two shots." The turning point was the 1992
Q school, at which Mogg failed to survive a playoff in the second
stage. "It was the time in life to ask the big questions."
The big answer was yes, to a job offer from Leadbetter, Mogg's
coach since 1984. Within a few years Mogg was running the golf
schools for Leadbetter and coaching Tour hopefuls and established
players--most notably Cook, who credited Mogg for reviving his
game when he won the 2001 Reno-Tahoe Open at age 43. Two years
ago Mogg struck out on his own, opening the Brian Mogg
Performance Center at the Golden Bear Club at Keene's Pointe, in
"With Skip, everything is loose and easy," Mogg says as he walks
back to the range. "David Morland is a little different. He has
75 swing thoughts, and he'll want to go through every one of
them." It's not a criticism, Mogg adds. Some pros, like Morland,
are visual and like to work with video. Others, like Peoples, are
tactile and operate with a heightened awareness of what a good
shot feels like. In addition they all have swing quirks or
distinctive preshot routines, like Morland's habit of grounding
his club several inches behind the ball and Peoples's
loosey-goosey repertoire of shoulder twitches and shrugs.
"Leadbetter was successful because he had a flexible method,"
says Mogg. "Nick Faldo and Nick Price had very different looks,
but Leadbetter helped them both."
Morland, a 34-year-old Canadian with a couple of Nationwide tour
wins on his resume, is hitting balls when Mogg gets to the
practice tee. Every mid-iron shot traces an impressive
trajectory, shooting downrange and drawing elegantly back to the
target. Nonetheless, both he and Mogg agree that his leg action
needs attention. Mogg tells him to concentrate on keeping his
hips more level on the takeaway. The result, to the layman's eye,
is a series of shots much like the ones he was already
hitting--brilliant. Mogg smiles. "Good, eh?"
Noticing the descent of the sun over the sea, Mogg makes dinner
arrangements with Morland and then scrambles back down the
escarpment. He finds Peoples on his 12th hole, playing an iron
from the left rough. He is five under for the round, but this
shot tails off to the right and finds a greenside bunker. Peoples
turns around, grins at Mogg and says, "Choked! The first bad shot
I've hit all day, and it's right when you show up."
At the next tee Mogg grabs a chicken burger and a bag of
chips--his only food since the bowl of cereal in Florida--and
walks up the fairway chewing. Watching him, Peoples says, "I'm a
hard guy to work with because I'm going to take a little of what
you say but not all of it. Brian's great because he works with
what I've got. He got me back on track in 2000, and now I don't
require much oversight."
Mogg follows Peoples for two more holes and then hustles back
inland to the range, arriving at 4:20 p.m. The shadows are long
now, and Kendall is one of only four players still on the tee.
Mogg watches him hit balls, making quiet comments from time to
time. They then talk about Kendall's upcoming round, scheduled
for 8:30 Thursday morning--the clubs he will hit on certain
holes, the speed of the greens, the risk-reward strategies. When
they're finished, Kendall looks confident. "Skip's got his speed
back," Mogg says.
After dinner with Morland and Nationwide tour pro Jeff Gove, Mogg
stands under the canopy of the La Jolla Marriott, waiting to be
picked up by old friends from Florida who are giving him a bed
for the night. It's 9 p.m.--midnight in Orlando. "It was a good
day," he says. "I feel like I helped all three guys prepare for
He stifles a yawn. "That's my job."