Below is an audio file on this blog post of golf strategy.
Blog Entry June 15/2010 by GolfInstrcutionGuy.com
This past weekend on the PGA Tour Robert Garrigus held a 3 shot lead standing on the 72nd hole. Needing only a double bogey 6 he had plenty of wiggle room to steer home his first career victory. Pressure is a crazy thing and it sometimes makes you think not so clearly which was exactly the case for Robert. I have analyzed his golf strategy on the hole and will talk about his club selection as well as the way his mind took over. On top of this I will give you a few tips on the proper club selection and way to think in this situation.
In most cases when a player has a lead and can make a bogey or worse on their final hole, they often think that playing safe is the way to go. This is the wrong way to think. You have to stay somewhat aggressive and play the hole as if you needed to make par to win. Playing passive will really compound errors on bad swings if they occur which will happen under pressure.
For Robert he decided to hit a hybrid off the tee. Although hybrids are really easy to hit, his best chance for error with a club is still a driver and expecially on a hole with water all along the left side. If he hits the driver to the right he is fine and able to hit a second shot. If his ball enters the hazard, it does so much further down and he is able to drop in a position where he can hit a shot close to the green. With his hybrid shot into the hazard, he had to drop much further back and in a spot where the trees left of the hazard were in play. See below for two images to better describe this.
Here is an angle from ground level.
I have presented this question to a few people over the course of the last few days and I am astonished with how many say they would hit 3 mid irons onto the green and two putt for bogey 5. If you can put three good swings on a middle iron under pressure then by all means do so but I odds are much better of making a bogey by hitting a driver off the tee and staying aggressive. If you hit one in the water, you can still make a bogey by hitting your 3rd shot on the green. If you happen to hit a poor 6 iron and end up in the water, you’ll be in the same position as Robert above faced with a tough 3rd shot that will not get you to the green because your drop is so far back.
If you make a good swing with the driver then you only have to make one more with a short iron and your on the green. This is much better then having to put 3 good swings on a middle iron especially since the water comes into play on all 3 shots.
With margin for error it really plays tricks with your mind. Instead of thinking positive and making good swings while trying to make a par for the hole, you’ll be thinking about all the worst possible outcomes for each shot while trying to make a bogey or whatever the highest possible score you can make on the hole is. These negative thoughts will hurt you once you put a bad swing on a shot and a bad outcome occurs. From there your mind and heart rate will speed up and what Johnny Miller refers to as “choking” will happen.
A way to overcome “choking” is to breath deep, drink water and stay positive. It also helps to put this it retrospect to relieve pressure from yourself.
“Will my family still love me after this hole regardless of what happens?”
“Will I wake up tomorrow the same way I always have if something bad occurs?”
In the grand scheme of things, playing great and winning a event shouldn’t be so important. This game is full of regrets but it’s learning how to forget about them that makes you truly great. Phil Mickelson is a great example of this. If he dwelled upon all his close calls in the Majors, he may not have won his 4th at Augusta earlier this year.
By now you all should understand how to play the final hole with a lead and understand how to take control of your mind and ease the pressure on yourself. If you have any questions or comments, please post them below!