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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ernie Came Up Short

Literally. His approach shot to the 18th, which could have put some extra pressure on Phil, didn’t make it over the sloped front of the green and spun back into the water instead. It’s already increased the speculation over whether Ernie is struggling to finish off tournaments now.

Since I want to give Brian some time to work with the last series of Project posts from last week, I decided to spend this week looking at some of the problems dogging the pros lately and what we can learn from them. The debate over what happened to Ernie on the last hole of the HSBC Championship this weekend is the kind of thing I had in mind.

First of all, I don’t think Ernie’s got some “complex” about finishing tournaments. Coming up short on a long par-5 doesn’t seem that strange to me. But it’s a problem we weekend players have frequently.

Ironically, Ernie’s problem reminded me of something teacher Peter Kostis said. Before he stopped tweeting―at least, I can’t find him in my “follow” list anymore, and I didn’t delete him―I copied several of his “Twitter Tips,” including this one:
peterkostis Twitter tip #4. Make aggressive swings to conservative targets, not conservative (or defensive swings) to aggressive targets. 11:37 AM Sep 14th from web
When we’re faced with a risky shot (like a long carry over water), most of us tend to try and get cute with the shot. For example, we try to hit a near-perfect shot to a tight pin position. But we know it’s a tough shot, and we’re not confident we can make it. So what do we do? We take a little more club than necessary, which is not necessarily a bad idea… but then we “back off a smidge” because we’re afraid we took too much club. The result is some skanky shot that doesn’t even get close.

This is what Kostis calls a “conservative (or defensive swing) to an aggressive target.”

What we want to do is pick a target that, if we miss it, we won’t get in so much trouble that we can’t recover. (Ball in water, unplayable… bad. Ball just off green, but playable… good!) Then we make our normal swing aiming at that spot, knowing that a miss isn’t too bad. Maybe we make a bogey instead of a par, but that’s better than a double- or triple-bogey.

That’s an “aggressive swing to a conservative target.” That’s what you want to make.

Maybe your problem is a certain club you don’t feel comfortable hitting. (The shots Ernie has missed all seem to involve his 5-wood. I’d be replacing that club, if I was him!) Maybe you’re choosing bad targets, like my example earlier. Maybe you just have an ego problem with laying up. Whatever it is, the first step to improvement is to eliminate the disasters from your game. Unless you’ve got a really bad swing, most of your double- and triple- bogeys are the result of poor decisions… and you can fix those easily.

Ultimately, that’s what Ernie will do. He knows which mental mistakes are costing him down the stretch; all he needs to do is stop making them! And that’s something you can do as well as he can.

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