Anyone who plays golf must have felt a knot in his stomach watching Neal Lancaster self-destruct down the stretch at the Canadian Open. Lancaster's problems were a mix of the mental and the physical. Instead of focusing on one shot at a time, he played the 72nd hole as if he were just hoping to make bogey, which would have secured the victory. Lancaster fell into the trap that snags many Tour players when the pressure is on: He let the results of a couple of shots torpedo his self-worth. No wonder an old swing flaw kept recurring once he began to struggle. Lancaster's arms turned away from the target in his backswing, but his body was almost frozen in place, and the lack of synchronicity between his arms and his upper body caused his bad shots at 18 in regulation and in the playoff.
It has never been harder to be on a Ryder Cup team than it has been for the members of the 2001 squads, because the players have had to deal with loftier expectations for a year instead of a month. After slumping this spring, Stewart Cink, one of my pupils and a U.S. team member, confessed to me in April, "I know it's not right, but I can't stop thinking, Ryder Cup players don't hit bad shots." I sent Stewart to a psychoanalyst, who taught him that the outcome of his golf should not affect his identity. Since getting that help, Stewart has made the cut in 10 of 11 starts and has three top 10s. Considering how many Ryder Cuppers on both teams are slumping, maybe more of the players should follow suit.
On Sunday night I called John Rollins's teacher, my old Alabama teammate and roommate Todd Anderson, to congratulate him and learn what makes the kid tick. Anderson, who teaches at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla., told me about Rollins's passion for playing the electric guitar (he rarely travels without one), his devotion to friends ( Rollins and his wife, Jenny, will be moving to Tampa soon, mostly because he wants to live near his best friend on Tour, Bob Heintz) and his relentless putting practice regime that some days involves hours using the Sindelar Putting Track device. Nice to know that sometimes nice guys come out on top.