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‘F--- I’m great’: Padraig Harrington plays this unique F.I.G. game. You should, too

May 09, 2024
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Whether you call it a reverse bounce-back or a more vulgar option, we’ve all done it: We have a great hole or stretch of holes, and we immediately blow up, giving all the shots back. The issue is we’re uncomfortable with going low.

That’s the mental hurdle that three-time major champion Padraig Harrington solves by playing a practice-round game where he is forced to go low. Ahead of the PGA Tour Champions’ first major of the season at the Regions Tradition in Birmingham, Ala., Harrington explained the game he often plays to prepare for events.

He calls it the “F.I.G.” game, which stands for “F--- I’m great.” We’re fired up just writing that, but the game has tangible benefits for all of us. Here’s how it works.

How to play “F.I.G.”

The goal during a F.I.G. game is to make as many birdies as you can, Harrington says. The way to do that? Lots of mulligans. “I hit my tee shot, and if I like it, I move on,” he says. “I’ve got two more options, but if I keep going to the third option, I can’t go to a fourth. I’ve got to take the third.”

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Raj Mehta

Essentially, Harrington gives himself three chances to hit the shot he wants off the tee, which hopefully ensures that he’ll hit the exact one he wants. But if you decide to hit a third ball off the tee, you have to accept the result and play it from there. That adds a clever twist to apply some extra pressure should you take your final mulligan.

OK, so we’re off the tee. On approaches, you get three more chances to hit the shot you want. “You’ve got three options. You set parameters,” Harrington says. “Maybe with a wedge you’re trying to get it inside 12 feet, maybe a mid-iron 15 feet, longer iron inside 20 feet, something like that.”

These goals can differ by your skill level, but they need to be a very high bar. Force yourself to hit an excellent shot and give yourself three chances to do so. As is the same off the tee, though, if you decide to hit a third shot, you have to take it. “You don’t want to go that far,” Harrington says.

How low can you go by playing this format? On Tuesday during a practice round at the Regions Tradition, Harrington played nine holes in nine under, making seven birdies, an eagle and a par. Of course, we won’t go as low, but we will shoot far lower than we are used to which intentionally makes us uncomfortable. By making it easier to go low, we are getting used to the feeling of making lots of birdies and pars.

“You’re trying to get your head around making five birdies in a row and it not feeling unusual,” Harrington says. “The whole idea is to score. It’s a competition with myself. Every time you practice, you’re trying to create stress.”

You can check out Harrington's complete explanation of F.I.G. on the PGA Tour Champions' Instagram account below.