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Rory McIlroy's Short-Game Basics

478 words on getting up and down more often

September 2014

Erasing your mistakes—not hitting perfect shots—is what good golf is all about. I've certainly had tournaments where I felt I was swinging great (like the 2011 U.S. Open, when I hit 86 percent of the greens in regulation). But as special as those weeks are, I have to say that nothing makes me more confident than when I'm getting up and down from almost any missed approach shot. Perfect example: This spring when I won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, I got up and down four times and chipped in another to shoot 32 on the back nine on Sunday. If you're confident with your short shots, you can manage your game when other areas are weak. And when your greenside play is strong, every part of your game gets stronger. Study all your options for shots around the green. The shot you hit should be the shot you know you can hit, not the one you think you might be able to hit.

For a low chip, I generally have the feeling of hinging my wrists on the backswing and then driving my wrists through toward the target. If I'm facing an especially tight lie, I prefer a simpler motion without using much wrist hinge, where I'm just trying to clip the ball off the top of the turf.

For a high pitch, particularly a flop shot, I open the clubface and feel like I'm letting the clubhead pass the ball as quickly as possible through impact to help get the flight vertical. I think a lot of people cut across the ball when they try to flop it—that's not what you want to do. You want to release the club under the ball and out toward the target.

The trust it takes to hit a flop shot or even a basic chip comes with practice. It's worth getting to know how to play these shots correctly. You can't expect to pull them off without putting in the time. My rule: If you're not able to execute the shot at least seven times out of 10 in practice, don't hit it during a round.

Final thing about these shots: Try not to miss greens in the worst places. I'm not saying we can all control our misses, but know the smart play. If short is safer than long, don't go in with a club that brings the danger into play. Be conservative, and give yourself a putt. Give yourself a chance.

Every player wants to be more consistent. I think consistency comes not from doing everything perfectly, but from knowing that when you make a mistake with your full swing, your short game will be there to save you. That's how you maintain momentum in a good round, and more important, it's how you prevent a not-so-great round from spinning out of control.

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