Tips From The Tour

April 2009
When it comes to player performance, the PGA Tour tracks more than 100 statistics each year. Everything from how many birdies a player makes on par 3s to how close he hits his approach shots from 250 to 275 yards out. We sifted through thousands of statistics from the 2007 and 2008 seasons and discovered that a handful of players made exceptional improvements in one specific part of their game. We asked them how they did it, and what average golfers like you and me can learn from their experience.

D.J. Trahan

When I need to stop the bleeding, I sometimes think about a visual tip my dad gave me. My father, Don, has been my only teacher, and he used to tell me to pretend there's a catcher's mitt right behind me on my target line. My goal is to start my swing so the clubhead hits the mitt. From there, I just lift the club to complete my backswing (left).

It's a great tip for amateurs who let the club get too far to the inside when they make a big backswing -- which causes them to come over the top. Or those who are scared to turn too far away from the ball. This move limits the turn and will give them the confidence to hit the next fairway and erase that mistake on the previous hole. It's so important to get off the tee on that next hole in good shape.

Sean O'Hair

A lot of people try to kill the ball when they're way out in the 250-yard range, but all it takes is good rhythm and nice, solid contact. In fact, I focus on a slower, smoother swing when I'm trying to hit a par 5 in two. Another way to stay in control is to play a fade. I prefer to play one for approach shots of this length because it slows my swing down, and I can control it better. Plus, a fade flies higher and with more spin, making it easier for the ball to hold on the green. To play this shot, I open my stance a little and make sure I get through the ball with my legs and body (left). The body turn is crucial, but I don't rush the swing, and I don't swing any harder.

Phil Mickelson

When I practiced from the sand during the 2007-'08 off-season, I hit shots from 10 yards out exclusively. After the 2007 season, my short-game instructor, Dave Pelz, did some research and discovered that the average distance of a sand shot on tour was 10 yards. So that's what I practiced (left). Thirty feet, nothing else, though I did create different lies for variation.

When the 2008 season began, I found that if a shot was a bit shorter or longer than the 30-foot norm, I needed to make only a small adjustment to compensate. The practice strategy really paid off. At one point, I hit 28 consecutive sand shots within three feet of the hole.

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