What's the strangest pre-shot routine you've witnessed?
In this edition of Fourball, Steve Carroll, James Savage and Alex Perry join me to discuss the benefits and affectations of a pre-shot routine…
Do you have any, what are they, and how necessary are they?
Steve: I have all manner of tics that come in and out of my game – largely depending on how well the last shot went. If it’s gone in the vicinity of a fairway I’ll stick with it until I shank one. I try and do what everyone else bores me with and ‘focus on a target’ but if I can’t hit a 70-yard wide fairway, why would anyone think I’d be able to hit it at the third branch on the fourth tree on the right?
James: Mine is now centered around trying to be more relaxed. This means a few practice swings away from the ball before going in to the hitting area. When I’m here it’s all about relieving a bit more tension with a few waggles of the club.
Then I’m thinking about my breathing. One deep breath and then the swing starts as I breathe out. I’m trying to breathe out all the way through the swing to stop me from thinking anything technical. The one thing I might say to myself during all this is ‘Justin Rose’.
In reality, I’ll still often hold my breath throughout while trying to swing as hard and fast as possible.
Alex: Mine’s very basic. One club twirl for cool points, one practice swing and hit. The only ‘thing’ I do is to make sure the logo on the ball is the right way round as I look down at it. I can’t be the only person that does this.
My verdict: I tend to get a ‘bit inside’ on the way back so for the majority of the past 10 months I’ve been trying to replicate a Faldo tip of shaking someone’s pretend hand who’s standing behind me. This coincided with a lovely bit of form in the middle of the year, then I forgot to do it for a couple of rounds and now it all feels a bit weird and I can’t remember whether I should be doing it with the driver as well.
What’s the best one you’ve been lucky/unlucky to witness at first hand?
Alex: I once played a round with Steve while he was going through some significant changes in his set-up. Watching him stand up straight over his ball before using his hand to guide his chest into the right position 90-odd times in the space of four hours was particularly painful.
Steve: What do you mean 90-odd times? That period is now in the past and I have since moved on with my life.
James: I remember Steve’s posture-correction phase. One thing I often witness from people is the way they talk to themselves before hitting a shot. “Can this ball go in the hole? Yes. What has it got to do to get there?”
I’ve also witnessed a fair few Alex Noren-esque practice swings. And people who slam their club into the tee box on a par-3 to make a small mound rather than actually using a tee. You know who you are.
My verdict: Guilty on the par-3 mound part but only when teeing off with my strong hybrid. I used to play with someone who did one practice swing at shoulder height, one at waist height, one more for good luck at knee height before addressing his ball. I took far too much pleasure in beating him in the club knockout in 1989.
Another used to perform a pre-set move which coincided with some strange facial gymnastics which was quite hard to witness three days into a trip.
Which tour stars have got the best ones and are you guilty of copying it or any others?
James: Jason Dufner and Sergio Garcia waggles are my thing these days. It drives some people crazy but I’m a fan of Jason Day closing his eyes and looking like he’s giving himself a pep talk for something far more serious than a soft 9-iron into a flat green. As long as it doesn’t take too long, I like to see players living and breathing every shot.
Alex: I didn’t read the rest of the question after “Which tour stars…” but the answer is Adam Scott. Always Adam Scott.
Steve: This could be tricky. I’m all about the impact you see. I’m usually looking at my phone or finding some other way to fill in the time when the players aren’t actually hitting shots. And once you’ve seen Keegan Bradley line one up, you never want to pay attention ever again.
My verdict: I’ll let you into a little secret. When I play on my own I do the J-Day eyes shut thing but I haven’t had the confidence to try it out in front of anyone. In the late 80s I used to do a very brisk Woosie waggle which is odd as I’m about a foot taller than him. Others that immediately spring to mind are the Karlsson chest out/stand tall thing.
For 2019 I might try and get the Thunderclap going to welcome in my opening tee shot.