March 4, 2008

When to go for it

What's your risk-reward equation?

SMART PLAY: If it took a wood to reach a green guarded by extreme trouble, Sam Snead would lay up to avoid a big number.

SMART PLAY: If it took a wood to reach a green guarded by extreme trouble, Sam Snead would lay up to avoid a big number.

Sam Snead was telling stories at an outing. He said that in 1948 he was frustrated because of his poor showing in the Vardon Trophy race for low scoring average. He analyzed his play and determined the par 5s had cost him. He was attacking them -- always going for the green on his second shot -- and had made some big numbers.

The next year he vowed that if a par-5 green were protected by severe bunkers, water or O.B., he'd go for it in two only if he could get there with an iron. His average dropped significantly, and he captured the Vardon. He won it the next year, too.

Are you careless with your second shot on par 5s or long par 4s? Instead of crushing a wood and getting into trouble, you might be better off hitting an iron to your favorite lay-up distance -- like a full wedge.

Ask yourself: What's my risk-reward equation? My old colleague Davis Love Jr. once said if he thought he could hit the green seven times out of 10, he'd go for it. Zach Johnson never went for a par 5 in two last year at Augusta (see page 202). That strategy won him the Masters.

Ranked No. 5 by his peers among Golf Digest's 50 Greatest Teachers, Flick is based at the TaylorMade Performance and Research Lab in Carlsbad, Calif. Click here for more tips from Flick.