The ‘Big Three’ have re-entered the world of golf. It’s the new, big story in the world of golf and for good reason. But as always, other parallels are to my mind, more compelling. Step in Matt Fitzpatrick and Tom Lewis.
Two weeks ago Matt won the British Masters, this week Tom has just lost his card and will have to go to qualifying school in an attempt to regain it. To the outsider these two may seem to have very little, if anything in common. But you’d be wrong. One was once a product of Pete Cowan, the other is currently with Mike Walker. Which is like saying one is a chicken soup, the other vegetable, both from the Covent Garden Soup Company.
Both of their amateur careers were fantastic. Matt’s best achievement was probably winning the U.S Amateur while Tom’s highlight could well of been beating me to win the British Boys in 2009… Tom also led the Open at St Georges and won in his 3rd start as a professional on the European Tour. So how is it that, in October of 2015, one of these is on the cusp of breaking into the worlds top 50 while the other stews over the possibility of not having a European Tour card next year?
I’ll start with what I think Matt has done well, and this will be short and incisive for good reason. After a poor start to the year, he didn’t panic. He didn’t make wholesale changes. Rather, I would assume, he studied his game, reflected on his form and subsequently figured out what he needed to do technically and physically, to improve. And he’s done just that.
Before I give my opinion on Tom, I want to state how I’ve been quite close to him for a long time and above all, I like him and his family.
Growing up, Tom’s biggest attribute was his ball striking. From the age of 12 his swing always looked pretty and as he got older it got more and more efficient. When we practiced together at events he would always beat the crap out of me, and more often than not in tournament play too! So when he turned pro and won in Portugal three or four weeks later, it really was no surprise. Shortly after that win, he parted with Pete Cowan, why exactly, I’m not entirely sure. I think Tom had an expectancy level after that win that was astronomical and when he didn’t perform to that level, rather than step back and assess, he made what turned out to be, in my opinion, a rash decision.
Tom struggled with his chipping from the end of 2011 onwards and well into 2012. From what I understand he felt a lot of this was to do with the method he was taught by Pete. Personally, I can believe that because I had similar problems shortly after working with Mike in 2013. However after that I decided I’d just use him for long game and bunker play. But Tom changed everything and I’ve always felt that was a shame. He ended up sacrificing his biggest asset which was his long game in an attempt to fix his chipping woes. Honestly, his short game was never incredible, but it was good enough.
If you look at Matt Fitzpatrick’s statistics this year from the tee to green, they are pretty awesome. Tom was as good. Their talents are similar. But their decision making so far has been worlds apart.
The other trap golfers fall into, and I think Tom has, is trying to be like somebody else. I’ve talked about me in the past trying to copy Ben Hogan. Shortly after working with Butch Harmon Tom began obsessing over Tiger Woods. The problem with people like Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Rory McIlroy etc, is that they’re very difficult to imitate. As much as it will hurt to die knowing people will never be in awe of me like they were Ben Hogan, it’s a fixation that I know isn’t worth chasing. Instead, we’re all better off looking at the Jim Furyk’s of this world. Because when you see how far he has got swinging it the way he has, that should provide you with inspiration and motivation.
Professional golf is like Mount Everest in many ways. There are so many ledges and cliffs you have to be aware of. Sometimes progress feels fast and you climb in sunny conditions, but there are times when an avalanche tumbles down on you for no logical reason and it’s just about sticking your claws in and holding ground. It’s easy to be a golfer when it’s sunny, but maintaining perspective and making smart decisions when you can’t hole a putt or can’t strike a 7 iron is truly when you make ground.
I think the next twelve months could well prove to be the making of Tom Lewis. He has a strong work ethic and is incredibly resilient, but it will be his decision making that will make the difference.