July 5, 2009

Practice The Shots You Need

I did, and it helped me win the 1982 U.S. Open

Do you practice the shots you know you'll face on your home course? When I went into the 1982 U.S. Open, I was playing terribly. I practiced my short game a lot because I knew that I probably would have to rely on it more. The greens at Pebble Beach are the amphitheater type, so if you miss them you have downhill recovery shots from heavy rough or bunkers.

I worked on chipping the ball off a downslope in deep grass, trying to loft it and land it softly.

A couple things many people don't realize about this kind of shot. If you weaken your grip, it's easier to keep the clubface open. Set your left thumb straight down the shaft, and weaken your right hand as well. And because you're using a high-lofted club, you have to swing harder.

I birdied the last hole to beat Jack Nicklaus by two shots, but my chip-in birdie at 17 gave me the cushion to know that a par would win. As a student at Stanford I went down to Pebble Beach probably a dozen times, and I always played a little game with myself that I had to par in to win the national open against Jack Nicklaus. In 1982, my dream came true.

THOUGHTS FROM TOM:

I like to read putts with my feet.

I walk -- briskly -- from my ball to the cup. I stay close to the line and look at it, and I feel which way the ground slopes under my shoes. Do this before it's your turn to putt.

*Watson is the golf professional emeritus at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. *