Date: February 22, 2009
Author: Chris Pike, Sportal

Psychologist helping Bickerton

Englishman John Bickerton is joint leader heading into the last round of the Johnnie Walker Classic and credits the use of a psychologist for his improved mental approach to the game. Coming into the third round, Bickerton had rounds of 66 and 70 the first two days to be eight-under par and already in contention, but his 66 saw him rocket to the top of the leaderboard to join Ross McGowan on 14-under heading into the final round. Bickerton, 39, has been a professional since 1991 and recorded good victories in tournaments around the world, but has at times found himself over-analysing things too much about his game. As a result, a psychologist has worked with him to keep him focused and relaxed, and he believes it&aposs working a treat. “I&aposm actually feeling pretty good. I work with a guy called Jamil Qureshi. I had a good chat with him last night, was quite focused today and concentrated on playing the golf course and not the scoreboard,” Bickerton said on Saturday. “You do get nervous out there, but today I was very calm and actually enjoyed it. I didn&apost enjoy the heat much, but I enjoyed the competition and being up there again. It&aposs only afterwards that you realise it&aposs a nice feeling, at the time it&aposs quite nerve-wracking.” Bickerton struggled in 2007, finishing just outside the top 100 in the Order of Merit, but dramatically rebounded last year winning the Alfred Dunhill Championship at South Africa&aposs Leopard Creek. Before the Johnnie Walker Classic at the Vines in Perth, he had missed four straight cuts but had not given that an ounce of thought, rather focusing on life outside of golf. Sunday&aposs final round also has some interesting symmetry, with Bickerton and McGowan also playing the final round together at last year&aposs Alfred Dunhill Championship. “I haven&apost taken much notice of the four cuts in a row because the last time I played before this year was the HSBC Champions in November. It was nice to take a break after that. I went to see my father in Peru, had a good holiday down there and had a good time with my son over Christmas. Sometimes that&aposs more important than hitting a golf ball on a golf course,” he said. “I finished third in the BMW last year, had quite a few top-10s and won at Leopard Creek.” “He&aposs (McGowan) doing well and funnily enough, the last time I won I played with Ross at Leopard Creek. It might turn out to be his turn this time, but you never know.” Bickerton has played the Vines course several times before and has noticed plenty of differences this time around, but while he&aposs playing so well he has nothing but kind words for it. “I&aposve been concentrating on fairways and greens all week. I&aposve hit the driver everywhere this week and I&aposve committed to doing that, and then you need to get onto the green in the right place, as it can be tricky,” he said. “I&aposve played the Vines many times, we used to play the Heineken here and you could not be that aggressive because the greens were so hard. This week because they are so much softer, they are taking the ball and it&aposs stopping, whereas before it would bounce off the greens. Every credit to the guys preparing the course. It&aposs not the Vines we&aposve played in previous years, in my opinion.”