Hey, stop me if you've heard this one before. Tiger Woods goes out and wins on the PGA Tour. Actually, you've probably heard it quite a few times (78 to be exact!). I don't really know if you there's any way to truly appreciate how amazing his dominance has been over the last 15 or so years but whether you love him or not, you have to appreciate his talent and the benchmarks he's setting. Our grandkids will be asking us about Tiger Woods.
But for the purposes of our "A Lesson Learned" this week, I want to focus in on one shot - and it may have won him the tournament. No, not Sergio's shot on 17 or even Tiger's two missiles on 18. It was a par putt that Tiger made on hole No. 15 - an eight footer that was absolutely critical. Woods repeated the point several times after his win.
Let's recall the situation. On hole No. 14, Tiger hit his worst shot of the tournament - possibly his worst of the year. His tee shot was a high short hook that splashed into the water and resulted in him making a double-bogey; turning what was at one point a 3-shot lead into a tie for the lead as he walked off that green. After a perfect tee shot on 15, he pulls a 9-iron into the thick rough below the green - a shot he said was the only time he had short-sided himself all week. At this point, Tiger Woods is reeling a bit.
This is where his championship make up came out and the important lesson for all amateur golfers.
Woods needed to make a par here. He did not try anything heroic. He knew he needed a great shot but not a miraculous one. What he needed to do was save par and to do that, he had to give himself a good look at a par putt. So he hit a shot that he knew would give himself a putt. Read that again because it's important. He left himself a shot to make the putt.
Too many times I see amateurs try so hard to take a difficult shot and then hit a miracle shot to tap-in distance, they risk chunking it, blading it, all other kinds of trouble come into play. I like to tell my students, "Hit a conservative shot aggressively." If the pin is tucked back left, and you need a birdie, you don't have to hit a difficult carving eight iron at the pin - you can take a firm swing with the nine iron to the safe part of the green and then give yourself a chance to make the putt.
Tiger did that with his chip. It was a tremendous chip out of the rough, but notice he didn't try to flop it next to the hole, he put it where he gave himself a putt. And then, he did just that - made the putt. Such a simple concept that is so hard for many to accept. Give yourself a chance to make the putt!
Also, when you have to make a putt under pressure, my favorite tip is for a student to listen for the ball to go in. The instinct is to look up, usually too quickly, to see if you've made your putt. In order to ensure your stroke is smooth and online, watch the putter make contact and then listen for the ball to drop.
I'd say 95% of Tour pros do not make par from the spot Tiger Woods was in on Hole No. 15. Then again, no other Tour pros enjoy the success that Tiger Woods has over the years. It's not just that he hits the best golf shots, he also makes the best golf decisions. If you start making better scoring decisions in your golf game, you're going to enjoy greater success as well.
Scott Schroeder is the PGA Head Professional at Atlanta Country Club in Roswell, GA. You can follow him on Twitter at@anybodyseeit
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