Well, the US Open just ended and let's talk about that final round and some takeaways that you can put in place to your game that will drastically help your scores. Trust me, the play was great and there's two key takeaways that you can apply to your game now. Let's talk about it.
All right. So we saw some really, really fun down the stretch golf! Even the players that weren't truly in contention (that would've required a collapse from the top) even still kind of came in at the end. We had three past major champions who were in the hunt and they were hunting! It didn't turn out for any of them, but the back and forth between Will Zalatoris, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Scottie Scheffler... that was amazing!
The thing that stuck out to me was really two parts, and these are two parts that you can immediately start working into your game. It is the intermediate putting and the depth of green target selection (where they're trying to land the ball). W e saw some deeper rough than we're used to out of these tournaments,
and it was absolutely affecting people! I think it was the 15th hole, maybe the 16th hole where Zalatoris was in the right rough, and he tried to cut the ball and it ended up being, not really a pull, but it ended up being just a dead straight shot and he wasn't able to shape the way he wanted to.
When it comes to that depth of green shot selection, we saw a lot of times these guys were aiming for the front third of the green. This is where a lot of newer golfers should be aiming. Not necessarily because they can't get it to the back of the greens, but when we're talking about our best shot we know that will be fine (more or less). The thing is golf is not a game of perfect and that's the mindset we need to adapt. If you talk to these guys who are playing on Sunday, you're probably only gonna hear that they may have had a very small handful of perfect shots out of their fantastic rounds. Seriously, I'd bet they'd say they had less than 5 truly perfect shots in their round.
So a lot of times we are not going to see that perfect shot. Now, depending on your situation, depending on your course, this strategy can change, but I would rather see someone whose in between a shot that they're comfortable with and a shot that they're not comfortable with hit the comfortable shot. I think it was Dr. Bob Rotella that said take the conservative shot with a cocky swing, and that's exactly what we saw happening on Sunday.
Now, if you're that weekend golfer who's, maybe sitting 160 yards out in the fairway (pin in the middle of the green) and your 160 yard club is your five iron and you just don't seem to have the confidence in that club you should step down to your six iron. Yeah, it's probably only gonna get you on the front of the green, but you have a better chance of hitting that club well.
If you go with the five iron you might have a one-in-ten chance of hitting it well and ending up pin high AND on the green. The problem is, if you don't have confidence in that club the other 9 shots that don't go well have a higher chance of being a catastrophic failure. That could leave you in a more difficult position, duffing it and having basically the same shot over again, or even taking a penalty stroke.
When you're a newer golfer or really even just struggling to score, you really should be thinking more about how do I eliminate the big number. PGA instructor and friend of the show, Josh Boggs said time and time again:
If you wanna break 90, it's not making about pars and birdies. It's about making less eights, nines, and tens.
This is because that one hole is gonna blow you up and either ruin your nine or your whole round by getting stuck in your head. You're gonna drag that bad number with you for three or four more holes, and that three or four more holes is going to be something that should not have been as bad as it was.
You might have a really bad hole, let's say a quadruple bogey, and then you're sitting there kicking yourself and beating yourself up about it for the next two holes. Maybe those next two holes are double bogeys when in reality they could have been bogeys. Now that big number, it didn't just cost you that quad in the moment, it cost you two or three more strokes down the line even though it's behind you.
Now I've got other episodes on the mental game about creating your own post shot routine that you can certainly check out, but that's a big key to leaving the big numbers behind you. You can kind of acknowledge it, address it and move on., but if we're in these circumstances where one decision could push over a string of dominoes that spirals us for a little bit, that's what's keeping us from breaking 90.
It's that one decision that led to three or four more, either bad decisions or not focused holes of golf.. That's where we accidentally shoot ourselves in the foot, but it goes untreated and we basically bleed out over the next handful of holes.
Here's an example of how I handled a similar situation recently. I hadn't had a lot of time to practice or play but I was asked to sub in a league with some friends. I basically go to the course and I shot 42 (par 36). I'm six over and. I'm not upset with that number, especially for how little I had practiced and played. I birded the first hole, so I made the mandatory dad joke of, "oh, I guess I'll see you guys next year, finished one under for the season."
But aside from being goofy, I, I approached that round like this course owes nothing to me. I have not done my due diligence. If I have a bad number it's gonna be out there and there's nothing I'm gonna be able to do about it. Just cut bait and move on. Low and behold I ended up triple bogeying a 140 yard par three... OUCH!
I put one in the bunker and then I tried to get cute coming out and I hit it over the green. I had a really terrible chip that didn't get to the green and then it took me three to get down from the fringe. So that was a six on a par three. If I had let that really stick with me and anger me that would've been a much bigger number than a 42, because the very next hole was the number one handicap hole of the entire course (that means it's the hardest).
It's a big par four with a creek and a nasty green, and if I'm being a hundred percent honest, I did kind of let some frustration seep into the tee box because I put both cheeks into it as my dad used to say and pulled it into the next fairway. I did not have a good approach shot, but I was able to scramble and make par.
So who knows maybe if it would've been a more kind of easygoing yet cocky swing I could've had an opportunity at birdie. As it was, I was really, really lucky and I made about a seven or eight footer for par.
It happens to the best of us and it really could have derailed my round much, much worse, but I was able to acknowledge it, accept it, and move on.
A lot of times going for the front of the green is going to provide you an opportunity to avoid a catastrophic score more frequently. That's what we're doing. We're playing the long game. We're playing the numbers game. To help avoid those circumstances. And like I said, for newer golfers who are still struggling to break 90, you want be aiming more for the front of the green at those uncomfortable distances.
This one is across the board for everybody, regardless of your skill. It's those intermediate putts. Think of all the clutch putts that went down. For a while there, it seemed like it was Ftizpatrick and Zalatoris just going back and forth making putt after putt after. Then Scheffler starts dropping them in over those last three or four holes.
When we're looking at these intermediate putts, I'm talking anything, let's say like eight to 20 feet. They put a lot of time into these putts!
For you as a weekend golfer, I don't want you expecting to make these puts your goal is to not three put and maybe one out of 10, or one out of 15 the hole will get in the way and you'll make it. That's really how you should look at it because that's what the math says.
I quote this guy all the time, Lou Stegner, he's like the king of golf statistics. He says you should not be expecting to make these every single time from 10, 12, 15 feet. Especially once you get out to like 15 feet. You have a better chance of three putting from that distance as the weekend golfer, who's trying to break 90 than you do of one putting.
So let's be more focused on touch and lag and not as focused on finding the bottom of the cup. Now, if you've been listening to my podcast really any period of time, you know, that one of my absolute favorite drills is the six foot putting ladder. Matter of fact, this is what you should do last before you walk out to the first tee because this gets you really, really comfortable with the speed. Well... at least of the putting green.
This six foot putting ladder is a failure based practice. What you do is you set up, is find a straight putt and you set up a putt every six feet. So 6, 12, 18, 24, and 30 feet. What I like to do is I lay a club about three feet behind the hole, and I take each putt as if it's that million dollar US Open winning putt.
I go at it trying to get it to the cup, but not touch that club that I laid three feet behind the hole. The idea here is that I have to meet both of those objectives in order to progress to the next Step. Otherwise, if I don't, I have to start over. So from six feet, I'm gonna make a decent amount of those. From 12 feet is where the weekend golfer will start to see some failures because you might leave one a little short or just pop it a little too hard. When you get out to 18 feet, that's when you're gonna see a lot of failures.
That's usually when I start missing my first ones, and this is again, all about training your touch. So you gotta get the ball to the hole, but you can't get it more than three feet past the hole. If at any point you fail, you have to reset everything and start over from six feet.
This kind of dovetails with another problem I notice a lot. Everybody looks at the statistic that they get from playing, but it's important to measure how well you practice too. So we're looking at this from a how many chances did it take before I got through the whole thing? stand point. If you're getting really good you can measure how many times outta 10 was I able to get through the whole thing. Do this practice before you play your next five times and I want you to just write down somewhere how many times it took you before you were able to get through it. Hopefully on the fifth time you notice that maybe it only took you three chances to get through it instead of six or seven or 10 or whatever the number is.
This is how those intermediate putts are going to be improved, and that's what I noticed the guys who were really at the top of the leader board were doing well.
So to recap we're aiming at the front of the green and working on our intermediate putts. Now, if you would like some short game help, I have a five strokes in five days challenge as well. These are a video walk through of some of my most impactful practice routines including the six foot putting ladder! Click here to sign up (it's free).