U.S. Open

Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (Course No. 2)

Bubba Watson: 412 Words On Trouble Shots

How you can become an escape artist.

Photo by Walter Iooss Jr.

April 12, 2017

I've found myself in plenty of tough spots on the course, but I seem to get myself out of trouble more often than not. Remember my hook shot around the trees on the 10th hole at Augusta to win the 2012 Masters? You're welcome. When I don't pull it off, it's usually more about making a bad decision than bad execution. Like at last year's U.S. Open at Oakmont. During the second round on the 619-yard fourth, I hit it just over the green in two. The lie was horrendous. And yet, at that moment, I thought, I can do this. So I went at the pin. Two chips and three putts later, I carded a 7. What I should have done was forget the flag, play sideways to the biggest part of the green and two-putt for par. It was a good lesson: When you're in trouble, the best play might be away from the flagstick, even backward. It can be the difference between having a heroic hole or a horrific one.

When you find your ball in a bad lie, don't be like me at last year's Open. Instead, choose your highest-percentage play—the one that will give you the best opportunity to score or, at least, avoid a big number. That play depends on your options and the types of shots you're most comfortable with. As tempting as it might be to hit a flop shot that stops dead or curve something around trouble like I did at Augusta, if you don't have much experience hitting those types of shots, they're not worth the risk of trying them now.

Once you make your choice, that shot should be the only thing you think about. I find it becomes a lot easier to perform under pressure if you focus on the process.

Keep in mind that hitting a great rescue shot only really matters if you can finish the job. Amateurs I watch hit too many drivers when they're practicing. Don't be like them. You need to get to the chipping green. And when you're there, don't just put your ball in the short grass. Practice every lie, and notice how your technique has to change depending on the situation. Keep working at these shots until you feel like you can get the ball on the green from any lie. The better your short game gets, the more rewarding it will be when you hit a great shot from jail. —With Keely Levins