Stick Up For Rick

The criticism of Rick Smith is unfair and inaccurate
May 13, 2007

There's been a lotof discussion the past few weeks about Phil Mickelson's decision to changecoaches. Should he go with Butch Harmon or stick with Rick Smith? In the endPhil chose Butch, and in the process Rick has taken a lot of criticism. Whilesome of the charges I've heard are valid, others are questionable--soquestionable that I felt the need to respond.

I agree that 10months ago Phil was playing better than anyone in the world and now he'sstruggling, but the last time I checked, that's golf. Phil has gone throughperiods in his career during which he's played poorly, but so have othermarquee players. Why didn't their coaches get put on the hot seat?

Over the yearsRick has made changes to Phil's swing that have helped. If you compare Phil'sswing today with what it looked like in the past, you'll see improvedlower-body mechanics--his legs sag less through impact--and his spine is not astilted. Remember, too, that as a coach you can make suggestions, but the playerdoesn't have to accept them. Maybe Phil needs corroboration from another sourcebefore he agrees to certain modifications, but it doesn't mean that those ideasweren't previously offered. (That being said, swing advice is to some degreeopinion, which is why there are so many theories and so many types ofswings.)

On a nontechnicallevel, some critics have commented on Rick's personality, claiming that he's"too nice" and that he's become Phil's yes-man. The reality is thatPhil is a very intelligent person, and if he hadn't been seeing improvement inhis performance, he wouldn't have kept Rick around for 10 years. Let's also notforget that Phil has won at least 20 Tour events including three majors underRick's tutelage. Most coaches would be ecstatic with those results from one oftheir players, yet Rick continues to be criticized.

Even if you don'tagree with Rick's approach, you can't argue with his success. Besides hisaccomplishments with Phil, Rick has helped Lee Janzen win two U.S. Opens, andseveral more of his players have won Tour events.

What kills me isthat many of Rick's critics have never worked with a high-profile player likePhil--so how can they be so knowledgeable on a subject with which they have noexperience? I don't think most people understand the amount of pressureinvolved in fixing an elite player's swing when it leaves him.

I wish Phil thebest of luck; he has never been anything but nice to me and our staff. As forRick, he will be fine, too. Being too nice is a character flaw that we allshould have.

Jason Guss worksat Rick Smith Golf Academy at Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Mich., and was votedone of the best teachers in the state of Michigan in 2005.

TRUST ME

by JIM GORANT

Michelle Wie will win at least one LPGA event beforethe year is out.

New Math

Michelle Wie will stop playing men's events and focuson the LPGA

NO WINS +

NO CUTS MADE -

NOVELTY +

VIEWER FATIGUE +

POTENTIAL DAMAGE =

LPGA FOCUS

PHOTOFRED VUICH (MICKELSON)TEACHER BREACH Mickelson's decision to change swing coaches has stirred debate throughout the sport. PHOTOROBERT BECK (WIE) PHOTOAP (CABBAGE PATCH) PHOTOGARY BOGDON (SLEEPER) PHOTOEVERETT COLLECTION (JACK NICHOLSON) PHOTOPHILIPPE MILLEREAU/DPPI/ICON SMI (LPGA PLAYERS)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)