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Cover Story

4 Keys To Go Low

Shatter that scoring barrier you thought you never would

October 2013

The way I see it, thinking about the position of the club during the swing is about the worst way to play golf. It makes you tight and defensive, which kills your natural speed and rhythm. Although there's obvious value to minding your technique, at best you'll play an OK round. Where's the fun in that? To really go low, to shatter that scoring barrier you thought you never would, you've got to think less about the club and more about your mental approach. I'm one of a few guys on the PGA Tour who doesn't work with an instructor. I'm not saying mechanics don't matter. But I play my best when I focus on staying in a good place mentally and keep the technique simple. You should try it, too.

Choose A Spot
AIM FIRST (left): Square the face to a spot a few feet up the line, then step in.
TRUST IT (right): Once you get your pre-swing checks done, be aggressive.


BODY

CHOOSE A SPOT...

Correctly aligning your body where your eyes are looking, day in and day out, is next to impossible to do naturally. Laying down shafts or alignment rods on the range helps, but it's easy to get off track on the course an hour later. You need a trick. What I do is set the clubhead behind the ball with just my right hand and aim the clubface at the target. Then I pick a spot three or four feet ahead of the ball. I keep my eyes and the clubface locked on that spot as I settle into my stance. Now I don't even have to look up to know I'm aimed correctly.

MIND

...THEN COMMIT

After you hit a bad shot, ask yourself if the cause was physical or mental. Most amateurs are quick to identify a technical glitch, like "I picked my head up" or "Got quick and came over the top." But I think most bad shots, even among amateurs, are caused by mental mistakes. These include not trusting your swing or the yardage and allowing fear to creep into your mind. Try to truly commit to the shot and your ability to hit it. I realize this is as hard to do as it is easy to say, but it's worth your attention. I know it'll help you play your best golf.


Stand Closer

GET RELAXED: Make sure your arms hang at address for a smooth start.


BODY

STAND CLOSER

After I take my stance, I shuffle my feet toward the ball an inch. This juts my hips backward and clears space for my arms. When the arms can hang straight down instead of reach, it sets up the single most important feeling in the takeaway: freedom.


MIND

HAVE ONE NUMBER

My first years on tour, I tried to be super professional by considering the yardages to every feature and hazard. Over time my caddie and I noticed I play better when we keep it simple. Think about the distance you want the ball to fly, and only that number.






Go Easy At The Top

DON'T RUSH: Complete your turn before you start the club down.


BODY

GO EASY AT THE TOP

I want a slight pause at the top of my backswing. Sometimes I hit balls listening to music on headphones and really feel this pause. All music has rhythm, so you don't necessarily need songs with a slow tempo. I play a fair amount of Coldplay, Eminem and Kelley James.


MIND

PLAY SMART SHOTS

Go with your natural shot off the tee. If a hole sets up for a fade, I still hit my draw. A little better position in the fairway isn't worth the risk. For me, approaches are different. Starting a shot at the middle of the green and working it to the flag might get me a kick-in birdie.









Keep Up Your Speed
FINISH FAST: Feel more acceleration as you
extend to the target.


BODY

KEEP UP YOUR SPEED

One of my favorite concepts is that what you do after you strike the ball matters most. The ball is gone at this point so the follow-through shouldn't matter. But it does. A lot. Maintain your speed, even feel faster, as your right arm extends after impact.


MIND

FORGET ABOUT GOLF

It's harder to score well in a slow round. The tendency is to overthink shots while you're waiting and become mentally exhausted. Instead, chat with your playing partners about anything but golf. Concentrate on each shot for no more than a minute. You'll stay fresh.

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