Watching Thomas

U.S. Open 2023: 3 things I learned watching Justin Thomas chip for five minutes


LOS ANGELES — Walking around the Los Angeles Country Club property for the first time on Monday, I couldn't quite believe the size of the greens. They’re utterly tiny. Sloping, too, which makes the effective area of those greens even smaller.

It makes one thing inevitable: Players are going to miss greens this week, which means if they have any hope of lifting the U.S. Open trophy on Sunday, they're going to need to get up and down.

So, I decided to make my way to the chipping green to see how players were sharpening-up.

At the time, Justin Thomas was there for a quick-and-casual chipping session. He wasn't moving his way around the green like he would during a normal chipping session—it was more of a pit stop to get a general feel for the greens. He stayed in the same spot with the same club (a lob wedge) then wildly varied the type of shot he’d hit.

First, he’d work on bump-and-running one to a back pin (left video below). Then he'd set the clubface wide open, make a much bigger swing swing, and spin the ball back (right video below).

3 things I learned

The whole thing couldn't have lasted more than five minutes, but I was slightly surprised at a few little nuggets I learned along the way.

  • First, that Thomas was doing what's known as Random Practice. Rather than hitting the same shot over and over again, random practice means hitting a different shot every time. Think about it like the difference between memorization, or reciting, and actually understanding the subject. There's an emerging body of research showing random practice is the quickest way to learn a new skill, and the best part is that anybody can do it.
  • It was also interesting that Thomas wasn't just hitting shots high and low, but also left and right. He was trying to fade and hook shots, even though these were just chips. It was his way of building some awareness of the clubface. Where it was during his swing, and how to manipulate it during the swing.
  • From a technical standpoint, when Thomas wanted to hit the ball low, he kept the club low and more around his body. When he wanted to hit the ball high, he picked the club up quickly with his wrists, and swung more upright.

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