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mental game

Rory's club toss was a classic "We've been there" moment. Here are our versions

After seeing the world’s No. 1 player chuck his 3-iron into the water at Doral, we got to trading stories at the Golf Digest offices. It seems a lot of us have tales of exasperated golfers -- usually ourselves -- who, in a moment of rage, hurled a club at full steam. Sometimes it was funny, sometimes scary, often both. Below are a few examples:


I grew up caddieing and playing at a great old club in northern New Jersey. We had 36 holes, so the club was good about letting juniors go out, but my father made sure I knew not to take it for granted. I think I tried to be thankful, but hey, I was a kid. And man, could I whine about my crappy little game.

Late one afternoon, during the summer I passed the junior etiquette test, I was out by myself, in an imaginary match between me and my junior-golf nemesis, Alex Liebman. I got to 15, a short par 4, uphill and with a big bunker on the right, and pulled out my blade-y 2-iron. I loved that club, because somehow I could hit it straight -- and long enough for a seventh-grader who was all ribs and limbs. Full disclosure: I did have a tendency to whip that 2-iron left in a roundhouse hook that would end up unfindable or un-want-to-findable. 

Probably two down in my mental match with Alex, I let loose one of those sideways hooks. I remember watching that thing skip along the hardpan between the trees a few times, then dive into the weeds. Gone. Three down with three to go. So I did what any self-respecting brat would do: I reared back, right arm only, and flung that 2-iron as hard as I could. I’m sure it felt good leaving my hand, but then things got scary.

About 75 yards in front of the 15th tee is a cart path that cuts straight across the hole before the fairway. It comes out of the woods, out of nowhere, and carts would routinely tear across that path with no notice. As I followed my club streaking through the air, a cart came barreling onto the path. My eyes did a quick calculation: Cart and club were on a collision course. I watched in horror, not knowing whether to scream or try to get away with it. I did the weak thing, and just waited, my golf career (and my father) flashing before my eyes.

The cart beat out my 2-iron by a few yards, the club clanging down in the rough just over the path. The driver never heard it, never stopped, never knew some snotty 12-year-old almost took him out. Shaken, I lost the last three to Liebman, and never again have thrown a club like that. And now, if he reads this, my father knows. Good thing he can’t take away my clubs anymore. -- Peter Morrice


At this point, it's hard to decide whether it was a lesson in humility or ingenuity. I'd like to say the latter, but the reason this event sticks in my mind is probably because it's the former. Playing the now-defunct Spring Hill (Fla.) Golf & Country Club, circa 1992, I let my temper get the best of me after a particularly crappy tee shot and helicoptered my driver. It was an impressive toss, and my entire foursome watched in silence as the club hung in the air for several seconds -- like and NFL punt -- before slamming into a nearby oak tree. Here comes the humility part -- the club didn't drop out of the tree. Instead, it got hung up in the branches some 30 or so feet above the ground. Now what?

My ego told me to abandon the club. After all, every one was watching and the last thing I wanted was for the guys I was playing with to have any more reason to laugh at me post round. Can you imagine explaining to an EMT that the reason you need medical assistance is because you fell out of a tree trying to retrieve your driver? So I kept playing the final few holes without it. But when we got back to the clubhouse, my conscience got the best of me. Not only did I not want to be known as "that jerk who throws clubs," I also didn't want to shell out another $200 for a new driver. So here comes the ingenuity part. I figured out that the only way to resolve the crisis was to get a basketball out of the trunk of my car, walk back to hole, and toss it up at the tree until it dislodged my driver. And that's exactly what I did.

Toss after toss after toss. It was a busy day at the course and several golfers got
to watch -- and laugh -- as it took me nearly 45 minutes to get the job done. Once my driver fell to the ground, I picked it up with one hand, grabbed the basketball with the other, and marched back to my car with my head down the entire way. Eye contact with others is never good in a situation like this.  -- Ron Kaspriske

Club-throwing can be funny and not so funny. Unfunny first:

I was a regular caddie for the nicest guy in the club, but one week he was out of town, and I drew a guy I didn’t know. He was a lousy golfer, and he was surly. As far as I could tell, club-throwing was the only thing he did with any pretense of accomplishment. I endured the bad shots and retrieved the offending clubs until we came to a short par 3 on the back nine, where Mr. Bad Guy fatted a shot into the pond. As he berated himself and I walked ahead to the drop area, I heard a whizzing sound: He’d thrown his club, and it was helicoptering over my head. I had only one thought: Get in the water. It did. Dead-center in the pond, unretrievable. So it’s true: Every shot in golf makes someone happy.

Now for the funny. Years ago, I was part of a regular Friday-morning group. As part of the betting, two guys always had an individual game. Bounces are supposed to even out over time, but Friend 1 always seemed to get more than his share of the lucky ones, and that was the case again on this day. Friend 2 was beyond aggravated, and it got even more grim when Friend 1 thinned a shot that skipped across a pond and nestled within 10 feet of the flag. Friend 2, of course, plopped his shot into the middle of the hazard, to uncomfortable silence. The next hole required another carry over water, and after Friend 2 rinsed another shot, he sent his club flying after it. Splash. We walked on, only to hear another splash: another club in the water. Another splash: another club, wet. Another splash: 14 clubs had become 10.

At this point, the friends of Friend 2 are risking hernias while attempting to suppress their laughter. The round ends, and we head to the clubhouse to settle the bets. “I’d like a Budweiser, please,” Friend 2 says to the waitress. It arrives, and he takes a long slug before saying, “I’d like to apologize to you guys. I lost my mind out there.”

Tension broken, we laugh, long and hard. We’ve all been there.  -- Mike O'Malley


Club throws. I’ve seen some bad ones, and done some bad ones. Actually, there are no good ones. 

It took me a while to learn that. As a teenager, part of me excused club throwing as more validating than embarrassing. It’s what I had seen some of the better players at the muni where I played do when they got extra mad, which was often. It seemed like a macho thing to do.

I learned, much too late, that actually, throwing a club exposes you as mentally weak. These days, through sports psychology, or just paying attention, almost all high level players know that truth better than ever. I’m always so impressed when watching good junior players by their level of self -control. They know that getting outwardly angry, and especially throwing a club, hurts more than it will ever help.

All that said, vintage club-throwing as a release for the poor soul who just can’t take it  anymore can be very funny. Craig Stadler violently recoiling his follow through to bury the head of an offending iron deep into the turf, then walking away with the club still  trembling in a perfect  “tuning fork” was pure physical comedy.

When I was around 15, I was playing in a group with our assistant pro, a really physically gifted player who was known as the longest hitter in the area. He was also known for an explosive temper that regularly undermined otherwise good rounds. On a par 3 of slightly over 100 yards, he fatted his tee shot into the creek. Scarily furious, he whirled like an Olympic hammer thrower and flung his wedge with all his adrenalized power, the club whirring and soaring over the creek before landing on the front of the green, where it left a visible gash.  The feat was awe-inspiring, shameful, and lip-bitingly hilarious. 

Finally, an irreverent guy named Tex broke the silence. “Sorry, Jesse,” he deadpanned. “No mulligans.” -- Jaime Diaz

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mental game

If Tiger Woods really has the yips, he might want to give this guy a call

A chorus of golfers and analysts led by Rocco Mediate and Paul Azinger claim they could fix Tiger Woods' golf game in a few minutes. That's probably a stretch, but Dr. Richard Crowley thinks a couple hours should do the trick -- and he can do it over the phone.

Crowley is the author of Mentalball: How to beat your invisible opponent at its own game and the San Francisco-based psychologist has worked with thousands of athletes. His specialty? Curing the yips. 

Related: What happened to Tiger Woods' short game?

Most notably, Crowley helped Major League Baseball players like Steve Sax, Shawn Green and Mark Wohlers get over the problems that plagued them during their careers. For Sax, it was being able to make a routine throw to first base. For Green, it was breaking out of an awful hitting slump. For Wohlers, it was finding the strike zone again after it appeared he was destined to follow the path of Steve Blass -- for whom the term "Steve Blass Disease" was coined -- and have a premature exit from the game.

Those fixes had nothing to do with mechanics, which aren't the issue for someone suffering the yips. Crowley doesn't need to know anything about a particular sport to help an athlete, which is why his patients include everyone from baseball players to golfers to skateboarders. For the record, though, Crowley has never worked with a golfer as prominent as Woods -- or any tour player for that matter. But as he says, their level or sport is irrelevant.


"I never give any athlete advice," said Crowley, who posts many of his athlete's testimonials on his website, "All the advice aggravates the situation. Giving him advice is poison."

And no athlete gets more advice than Woods, who Crowley believes has never returned to his former greatness due to trauma he suffered during his 2009 scandal. But why are these pronounced short game problems just surfacing for the 14-time major winner?

David Owen wrote in a New Yorker story on the yips from last May, "No one understands for certain what causes any form of the yips, and no one yet has identified physical loci in the brain for focal dystonias." Crowley, though, is convinced the problem starts in the brain's right hemisphere.

"There's an extra thought in [the athlete's] head," Crowley said of Woods. "Every kid will call it 'weird.' 'The ball felt weird coming out of my hand.' That feeling comes from the unconscious and it comes from the middle of nowhere to a player. In a millisecond, they're disconnected."

That extra thought, Crowley says, can't be gotten rid of with a simple adjustment and can be triggered by a variety of things. But he believes finding the trigger isn't important and it isn't part of his solution. Instead, he treats athletes for these "invisible opponents" or "psychic viruses" by having them go through a series of mental exercises that shows them how to use their imaginations to fix themselves. This allows them to reconnect to the mindset that existed before the person encountered their problem. It sounds complicated, but Crowley claims to have a 95-percent success rate with athletes who spend five phone sessions with him.

Crowley acknowledged that the less an athlete has accomplished, the easier it is for them to believe it's not their fault and to buy into his method. He also says ego plays a large role since it's difficult to convince athletes they need a different kind of help.

"Most people will deny me and turn to a repeating pattern in which seeking instruction gives them false hope," Crowley said. "They think, 'I'll figure this thing out myself. I always have."

Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch was one of those people. Despite Crowley's previous work with Sax, another troubled second baseman, and Yankees GM Brian Cashman reaching out to Crowley, Knoblauch never returned any of Crowley's messages. He also never fixed his problems on what is essentially the chip-shot throw of baseball. Knoblauch was eventually moved to the outfield -- where he could make the longer throw fine -- before being out of baseball at 32. 

The Grind: Tiger's short game woes and Freddie Jacobson meets Rihanna

The yips can be fixed, but any doctor would agree that first, they need to be acknowledged. That's something we haven't seen yet from Woods, who instead has blamed his short game woes on everything from a new "release pattern" under instructor Chris Como to rust to a new grind on his wedges.

Woods has been open to trying new things with his golf swing, but would he be open to doing drills that don't take place on a practice range? If so, Dr. Crowley is just a call away.

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mental game

Make The Turn Weekly Challenge #44: Ultimate Motivation Mix

Nothing makes you want to crush it like the right song or playlist. It's often the fuel that drives us, sustains us and helps summon that extra bit of effort.

In 2002 I was terribly out of shape and desperate to get my health back. Needing to make a significant lifestyle change, I was introduced to group called Athletes Performance, now known as EXOS in Phoenix. My first workout was to begin at 6 am. I went to bed a few hours earlier than normal and arrived promptly at 5:45. At the time Athletes Performance was an offseason haven for professional athletes from virtually every sport. Now as EXOS it has grown into a monster brand developing strategies for athletes, corporations and even the military. Its staff meant business, and I knew this was an opportunity I didn't want to squander.

To warm-up, our group jogged to a massive astroturf field and began going through a number of movement-prep exercises. As we prepared to shake the rust from our tightened muscles, music began pouring through the raucous stadium sound system. It was the "Rocky" soundtrack, cranked up to Spinal Tap's infamous level 11. Standing outdoors on the astroturf field, my body shivered as I gazed up at the pitch black sky. Our coach's voice barked commandingly, as the first challenge took shape. My body was stiff and rigid as each move felt like my muscles and tendons were about to rip from the bone. Part of me wanted to quit, but inspiration echoed through the speakers as our captain led the charge. It was Bill Conti's "Going The Distance." In that moment my entire life changed.

The next morning, my muscles ached with soreness, but I showed up again at AP and every other day the staff let me participate in the program. I had turned into an animal. A fire-breathing dragon, hell bent on pushing myself to the limits. With each rep the muscle packed on . . . 150, 160, 175 pounds at only 8 percent body fat.

As I would arrive at the facility each morning, one of the defensive players for the Indianapolis Colts would grab onto my bicep and ask, "When are you coming to training camp?" I knew he was joking, but that kind of positive interaction made me want to work even harder. Nothing in my life up to that point had felt better, and to this day I rely on my experience in that program to keep me focused on what is possible.


What is it that drives us to Make The Turn in each area of our lives? Sometimes it's pure desire, sometimes positive people we surround ourselves with and sometimes it can even be a song that serves as our personal anthem for excellence. Twelve years later, "Going The Distance" still pushes me to try a little harder.  

Have some fun making a playlist that acts as the driving force behind your success and you can count this week's challenge as complete.

If you need some inspiration here's a list of the songs that get me going. Share YOUR songs as well and let's create the greatest playlist of all time!

1. Going The Distance, Bill Conti (Rocky Soundtrack)
2. Stranglehold, Ted Nugent
3. Bullet The Blue Sky, U2
4. Little Black Submarines, Black Keys
5. Lose Yourself, Eminem
6. Gimme Shelter, Rolling Stones
7. In The Evening, Led Zeppelin
8. Where The Streets Have No Name, U2
9. Dreams, Van Halen
10. Along The Watchtower, Jimi Hendrix



Jeff Ritter is the CEO/Founder of MTT Performance. The program operates out of Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif. Follow him on Twitter at @mttgolf
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mental game

Make The Turn Weekly Challenge #40: Get In The Game

Finding excitement in life is about "getting in the game," by believing you deserve to be experiencing amazing things!

There is a fantastic passage by Marianne Williamson entitled "Our Deepest Fear," that says in part, "We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be?"

All too often, we look at the success of others and say, "I wish I could be like that." We then immediately brush off this wish as mere hopefulness or passing thought. If you've been living below your potential, it's time you take a stand, shake things up and go big!

Jump-start your greatest desire by adopting a mentality where you consciously make the switch from "wishing to doing." This is all about taking immediate action and putting your dream in motion. If your dream is to play tournament golf, then sign up for a tournament right now. It doesn't really matter what it is, but by picking up the phone, getting online and creating a call to action, you'll set in motion an exciting journey taking you to places you had never imagined possible.

I personally experienced this shift years ago when I told a friend I thought it would be cool to learn to fly airplanes. He immediately handed me the phone and said, "If you want to fly, then I think you should schedule a lesson." At first, I didn't want to make the call. I had thought about flying for years, but never believed it was something that I could actually do. But then he said, "You just told me you want to fly airplanes, so go fly airplanes." Right then I picked up the phone and called the local flight center setting up a lesson for the next morning. Even driving to the airport I thought I was crazy and considered canceling. Sure enough, though, less than a year later I was a pilot. Chances are if it wasn't for my buddy, I still wouldn't have pulled the trigger and went for it. I still remember my first solo flight, being up in the air and flying over the rough Arizona terrain thinking, "I can't believe I am actually doing this!" It was an amazing experience I owe in part to my friend who gave me a push.

So now it's my turn to push you. Whatever you've been wishing about, your job is to start doing it NOW! Pick up the phone, take action and make the commitment. You'll find the moment you shift from "wishing to doing" your next amazing adventure will immediately begin to unfold.

Life Achievement

Jeff Ritter is the CEO/Founder of MTT Performance. The program operates out of Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif. Follow him on Twitter at @mttgolf

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Weekend Tip: Jack's Advice in Wet Weather

gifBy Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman

Rhythm and tempo

On Friday I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Jack Nicklaus, the greatest player in the history of the game, for an upcoming instruction series for Golf Digest. In his office in North Palm Beach, Fla., we talked about a number of subjects, but one that might be important this weekend with the impending rain in the Southeast, is how to play in bad weather.

We talked about a lesson Jack first produced with Ken Bowden in the classic series "Jack Nicklaus' Lesson Tee," which ran in the magazine in the '70s and became a book. Here is the lesson, with Jack's current comment:

"Rhythm and tempo take on extra importance when you're being bullied by the elements. With rain running down your neck, you subconsciously risk hurrying both your setup and your swing. In those circumstances I try to make a conscious effort to get properly settled over the ball, then to swing as smoothly and fully as possible. Two of my key thoughts at such times are: 'Make a deliberate takeaway' and 'Complete the backswing.' "

"That's a great tip," Jack told me on Friday. "I never considered myself a mudder, like Tom Watson, who relished wind and rain, but there are three categories of golfers in bad weather:

"One simply stays home until the rain stops. If you're playing in a tournament, you can't do that. Another group goes out and plays but with a negative attitude and usually a lot of griping and poor scores. The third group accepts the elements as just another variation of the game. They assume the scores will be higher and don't get upset when they make a poor shot or a bad score. When I was playing tournament golf, I made sure I was in that third group."

So if you want to play your best golf in inclement conditions, adopt Jack's attitude and think of your rhythm and tempo.

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Mid-week Lesson: How to play against a tough competitor

gifEditor's Note: Ever play in a group in which one of the golfers is a really strong player? Maybe it's the club championship and you drew the defending champion. Or you're playing against someone who has a reputation of intimidation. Every week Kevin Hinton, Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, tells you how a tour player hits a key shot. This week, Kevin discusses something a little different, inspired by a key pairing at the Barclays Championship at Bethpage on Long Island. For at least the first two days of this week's PGA Tour event, PGA champion Rory McIlroy and FedEx points leader Tiger Woods will be playing together. This gives Kevin an opportunity to discuss how tour players handle playing with a tough competitor, and how you can perform optimally when you're competing against someone who seems to pure it off every tee. 

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter: @RogerSchiffman

By Kevin Hinton
Twitter: @KevinHintonGolf

How do you play to your potential when you're battling feelings of inferiority or insecurity? That's often what you face when playing with, say, the top golfer at your course or the best player in your town. Here are some tips when playing with your personal rival:

1. Be more prepared
Tom Kite once told me that one of the reasons he would practice so hard was that it gave him a sense of "deserving" to win. He would tell himself that no one in the field had prepared more, thus he deserved to win.

2.  Figure out how hard to try
This is one of golf's big challenges. Trying extremely hard and grinding on every shot is not likely the recipe for success, nor is casually hitting shots without any focus. It is important to find the right balance, and that will take some experimentation. When playing a rival, most people err by trying too hard. It is mentally exhausting if every shot is hit as if it's life or death.

One putting exercise I do with my students is to hit putts with different effort levels, and track at what level they make the most putts. I'll have them hit groups of putts at different levels of intensity. A "10" would be reading the putt from multiple locations and summoning as much mental fortitude as possible, essentially trying to "will" the ball into the hole. A "1" on the scale is barely reading the putt and taking no practice strokes. It's just about as casually as a putt can be hit. Most people find that they have the best results somewhere in the middle, but it varies for each player. You can also apply this to full shots.

3. Play your own game
Much easier to say than do, but there is actually no reason why a rivalry should affect how you play. Golf is an individual sport in which you play against the golf course and yourself. Overly focusing on your opponent's game isn't healthy, even in match play. Stick with your routine, and just keep playing as you know how. I think that's why many tournaments are won by players who are not in the final group, flying under the radar a bit. Both Webb Simpson and Ernie Els won majors this year by doing so. ... Read

Weekend Tip: Winning at match play

sumo.gifHead to head. Mano a mano. You against me. However you put it, July and August are traditionally the months for match-play tournaments. Many club championships are contested at match play, as are most member-guests. In the September issue of Golf Digest, on newsstands next week (Alvaro Quiros on the cover), there's a timely Basics section full of match-play advice, either for team competition or individual.

Here are five of my favorites:

By Ian Poulter:
Get out fast: "In match play you have to attack every pin, and when you get a lead, keep your foot on the accelerator," says Poulter, who is undefeated in Ryder Cup singles play. At the 2010 Ryder Cup, he defeated Stewart Cink in 14 holes. "After every shot, the clock is ticking, and it's a lot easier to win holes early than late. Don't give anything away from the start. That's how you become a player who's tough to beat."

By Jack Nicklaus;
Forget your partner: "Tom Weiskopf used to tell stories when we were partners that I would say, 'Go rack your cue, Tom.' Meaning pick up your ball because I'm going to make my putt,' " Nicklaus says. "Of course, I didn't say that, but the mind-set is a healthy one for match play. If I had an eight-footer and my partner had a 12-footer on a different line, I might want to just hit mine in. Point is, don't rely on your partner, rely on yourself. You're playing your own ball, so think about what you can do."

By Michael Breed:
Have a safety drive: On a crucial hole, driving the ball in the fairway can be the difference between free drinks and picking up the check. "What I tell my students is, make a practice swing and feel what's happening to your body. Feel what it's like to stay in balance," Breed says. "If you can maintain your balance, the club will tend to meet the ball in the center of the face." Staying in balance also will improve your rhythm, he says, which always helps prevent wild tee shots.

By Padraig Harrington:
One hole at a time: "If you're down, your goal is to win that hole. Get one hole, then the next."

By Tim Mahoney:
Up big? Don't coast: "It's natural to be more cautious with the lead and force your opponent to take risks," Mahoney says. "But being conservative should apply only to the target and club selection. Once it's time to hit, make an aggressive swing. When players get a lead, they tend to guide shots or focus on just avoiding disasters. They start thinking about the next thing, like the next match. You have to keep playing."

Good luck with your game this weekend. I hope you win your matches, unless you're playing against me!

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman

Photo by Phillip Toledano/Golf Digest
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Weekend Tip: 3 Ways to Regain Your Feel--Fast

So the weather across most of the country is finally starting to act like spring, golf course superintendents are beginning to mow their greens down to mid-season levels, and golfers are starting to turn up at the first tee, ready to put their games on display. At my own club, New Seabury on Cape Cod, this weekend's tee sheet is jammed full, and our Saturday morning group has more players than ever.

But what if you're one of those golfers coming out for the first time this year, and you feel like, as Dan Jenkins once said, the golf club feels like a parking meter in your hands? That's where this column will help you. Here are three tips, from some of the game's top feel players and teachers, to get your touch back fast. The last thing you want to do is three-putt all day, or take extra shots from just off the green, or snap-hook your tee shots.

1. Feeling your hands. When you haven't played in a while, your hands feel weak. So it's only natural to grip the club tighter to compensate. Resist that and do the opposite. As Davis Love Jr. and Bob Toski wrote in How to Feel A Real Golf Swing, with Bob Carney, "Your hands generate clubhead speed. They control the face. They shape the path of your swing. But nothing can sabotage a good grip or good swing quicker than excessive or inconsistent grip pressure. Tension is the enemy of the swing, and it emanates from the grip. Pick up a pencil and write your name. How tightly did you hold the pencil? Just tightly enough to accomplish the task at hand. Which is how you hold your steering wheel, how you hold a book, how you hold your sweetheart's hand. For most golfers, holding a golf club only as tightly as enables the club to swing will seem much lighter than normal." So remember to hold the club lightly, and you'll regain your feel in no time.

2. Feeling the putter. Gain control by giving up control. Sport psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella once told Paul Azinger that he could see tension and artificiality in his stroke. In his book, Putting Out of Your Mind, Rotella recounts how he told Azinger to putt like he hit bunker shots. "I just look at where I want it to go," Azinger said, "splash the sand, and it goes there." Rotella told Paul he had to become relaxed, even nonchalant, at the moment of truth in putting as well. Try it and your stroke will free up and become more natural. You'll regain your stroke very quickly.

3. Feeling your feet. When you've had a long layoff, usually your feet and legs are a little slow; you've lost some agility. Get that footwork back by trying this piece of advice, from Tommy Armour's book How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time. "In simplifying footwork, I'll give you one little tip that probably will greatly improve the hitting portion of your swing. Have the right knee come in fast at the right time. The knee action in a good golf swing is practically identical with knee action in throwing a baseball."

So give these thoughts a try and good luck with your game this weekend. I'll be pulling for you (unless I'm playing against you).

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman 

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Weekend Tip: Use Your Think Box and Play Box

Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott are perhaps two of the most successful teachers in the game today. I say that because they coached Annika Sorenstam when she was dominating the LPGA Tour, and they also give advice to Yani Tseng, who is currently dominating the women's game. But make no mistake, Nilsson and Marriott, founders of the Golf54 academy and Vision54 Coaching for the Future, also work with plenty of male golfers, including PGA Tour stalwart Kevin Streelman.

Nilsson and Marriott have written three books on golf with Golf World's Ron Sirak. The latest,
Play Your Best Golf Now, crystallizes the concept of the Think Box and the Play Box. Their first book, Every Shot Must Have a Purpose, however, introduces the concept. I think their approach will help you shoot lower scores almost immediately. Hey, if it works for Annika and Yani, why not give it a try.

Basically, Pia and Lynn contend that every shot has a decision line. That's an imaginary line that divides the area where you do all your thinking and strategizing (the Think Box) from the area where you simply hit the shot (the Play Box). Annika was superb at this, says Sirak. Once she entered the Play Box, she never hesitated or became distracted. She simply went through her routine, trusted her technique and pulled the trigger. She left all of her thinking behind--in the Think Box.

Here is a short excerpt of the first book. Try their approach this weekend, and I bet you'll play better golf.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @Roger.Schiffman

As you stand in the THINK BOX you should consider all the variables for the shot: wind direction and strength, the lie of the ball (is it below your feet and will it thus fade away from your body?), the hazards you need to factor in, and, if you are in competition, the point at which you stand in the match. VERBALIZE your intentions for the shot. "I am going to hit a
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How He Hit That: Johnson Wagner's Par 5 Strategy

Editor's Note: Regular readers of the Instruction Blog have come to appreciate the weekly analysis provided by Kevin Hinton, the Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers. In 2012, Hinton will be taking that analysis to an even deeper level by breaking down a crucial moment or sequence in the previous week's tournament. This week, Hinton looks at how Johnson Wagner's play on the par 5s at Waialae Country Club was instrumental in his two-stroke win in the Sony Open.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman

Kevin Hinton: Johnson Wagner's stellar play on the par 5s at Waialae Country Club was a significant key to his victory. Waialae is a par 70 and has eight par 5s. That's eight total par 5's for the week. Johnson played those eight holes in nine under, eagling the 18th hole in the second and third rounds.

johnson_wagner_300.jpgTo gain some insight into Wagner's par-5 strategy, I spoke with his coach Bobby Heins, who is the head professional at Old Oaks Country Club in Purchase, N.Y. Bobby gives much of the credit to Johnson's working relationship with his caddie Matt Hauser, as well as improved wedge play. Bobby says that, "Johnson is still an aggressive player and goes for many par 5s in two. However, he has become more willing to lay up and make birdie with his wedge when the situation calls for it. Much of that comes from knowing that his wedge game has improved, as well as good communication and decision-making with his caddie."

(Wagner, above, has learned to weigh the risks when deciding to go for it on par 5s. Photo by Getty Images.)

In my view, a good coach, a good caddie, and a good wedge game sure seems to be a winning recipe for Johnson's par-5 success.

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