Travelers Championship

TPC River Highlands



Strategy

How does this PGA rookie figure out a game plan on a new course? With a little help from his friends

Offsite swing prep, shot plotting and intel from fellow LIV players helped Andy Ogletree prepare

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Andy Ogletree plays a shot during a practice round for the 2024 PGA.

Andrew Redington

LOUISVILLE — You might remember Andy Ogletree from his win at the 2019 U.S. Amateur or his performance as low amateur at the 2020 Masters, but his major championship portfolio has been in stasis since then. He’s making his first appearance in one of the big four in more than three years thanks to a breakthrough professional performance on the Asian Tour International Series last year—which got him both into the PGA and onto LIV as a member of Phil Mickelson’s HyFlyers.

Ogletree is seeing Valhalla for the first time this week, and his coach, Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher Tony Ruggiero, broke down how they prepared—starting with prioritizing the work that needed to be done before getting to Louisville. “The best way to give yourself time to get comfortable and familiar with a new course at a major is to do any swing stuff before you get there,” says Ruggiero, who reunited with his longtime student in 2022. “We met up in Atlanta and worked on some technical things to get his driving where he wanted it so we could focus on learning the course this week.”

In simple terms, Ogletree worked on getting better turn into his right hip on the backswing, which keeps his backswing on plane. On the downswing, making sure he turns his torso keeps him from hanging back and pushing the handle forward.

Those tweaks, plus finding a driver that was more pleasing to his eye, helped energize what had been a scratchy part of his game in the weeks before. “He was testing a bunch of drivers that didn’t have much difference in measurables, but he really liked the way one looked when he set it down,” says Ruggiero. “He could see the loft on the face, which made a difference in how he swung it. It translated into him not making some small, subconscious moves that were hurting him.”

In Valhalla practice rounds on his own and with Mickelson and Jon Rahm, Ogletree’s mission was to pick the lines off each tee that suited his preferred ball flight—an almost straight ball with a hint of drop fade. “On each hole, he’d identify where he wanted to start it with a landmark, like a phone tower, and I would go behind and confirm that his feet and shoulders were lined up where he thought,” says Ruggiero. “That way he can just feel good and let it rip.”

Around the greens, Ogletree diagnosed more complicated lies that feature a combination of bluegrass and broad-leafed zoysia, and practiced hitting more square-faced shots so the club stayed stable through the hit. “You’re picking out the spots around every green where you’d want to hit a short game shot if you had to, and that increases the effective size of the green,” says Ruggiero. “You know where you can afford to miss.”

The final piece? Level-setting on Valhalla’s hardest holes. “The main thing Andy learned from playing with Phil and Jon is how they approach a hole like 17, which is just long and hard,” Ruggiero says of the 472-yard par 4. “They go in with the idea that a 5 there isn’t the end of the world. You look at the green and you see there’s all kinds of room in front to end up in two shots if you’re out of position, and that can take some of the anxiety out of playing it. You don’t have to be a hero all the time.”