Originally Published: April 12, 2018 6 a.m.
I trust all of you enjoyed the 2018 Masters Invitational this past week. I had the privilege to attend this year’s Masters with my two sons for the practice rounds, Par-3 tournament and first round action. I would like to share some observations that you may find interesting and some things that you may want to consider incorporating into your golf game.
The excellent coordination and flow of the concession stands, merchandise shops and restrooms were beyond comprehension. The local high schools and colleges coordinate their spring breaks to correspond with the Masters week. Augusta National employs these young people who were so polite and accommodating as were the security guards and gallery control volunteers. All had to go through a training program that included language usage. Not once did I hear “No problem”. It was always “You’re welcome” or “My pleasure.”
Two players from Japan, Hideki Matsuyama and Yusaku Miyazata, warmed up on the practice tee up by hitting full shots standing on one leg, alternating between left and right. Try it, it is a great way to improve your balance and centeredness.
It took a lot of strategically placed shots into the greens to score well. My good friend, Dan Pohl, the 1982 Masters runner-up, once told me he would put my ball on every green at Augusta National in regulation and bet me that I could not break 100. After seeing these most undulating and fast greens, I believe him!
During the practice rounds, the “player guests” (competitors) would hit no more than two balls off a tee or as approach shots. They spent 90 percent of their practice round with putting, and pitch, chip and bunker shots around the greens. These are the shots that count. They knew the conditions during the tournament would change and dictate a change in strategies from tee to green, and thus club selection. And they knew they would make mistakes but the only way to redeem themselves was through their short game.
I observed that most of the players would take only one ball to the practice green prior to starting their competitive round. With that one ball they would putt a variety of putts, uphill, downhill, side hill, etc. This was not the time or place to focus on mechanics, it was time to get a feel for the green’s speed and reinforce their “touch” or “feel.”
Another thing that was interesting is that very few players took practice swings on their full shots (tee shots and approach shots) during the competition. But around the greens, they sure did. Again, this was to get the feel for how hard to hit a less-than-full shot (distance control).
And once a player has gone through their pre-shot routine and are set to hit the ball, it only takes them from one to three seconds to start their swing.
We learn by modeling others, so be honest with yourself and figure out what you can learn from better players. Then apply these lessons to your game. Who knows, you may be the model for others in due time.
John Gunby Sr. is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.