April 8, 2009

Steady Your Head

This thought will help your arms swing freely

joining the club: (inset) It was pretty special to be congratulated by Jack Nicklaus after winning my first Masters.

joining the club: (inset) It was pretty special to be congratulated by Jack Nicklaus after winning my first Masters.

I was tied with Jack Nicklaus for the lead on the 16th hole on Sunday in the 1977 Masters and was so nervous I was almost jumping out of my skin. The flagstick on the par 3 was back-left, and I chose a 5-iron rather than a 6-iron. I knew it might be a little too much club, so I took something off of it.

As I swung, I had one thought: Keep your head still and swing around it. A stable head (it swivels some) helps you stay in balance and lets your arms swing freely.

I hit the shot flush, right at the flag. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was good, even though I couldn't see where it landed. It ended up about 15 feet behind the hole.

When I hit that shot, the pressure just drained out of my body. It was an amazing sensation. I two-putted for par, then birdied 17 and parred 18 feeling very little pressure. I won by two strokes when Jack bogeyed 18.

My 20-foot birdie putt on 17 got most of the attention because the roar distracted Jack in the 18th fairway and caused him +to change his mind. But keeping my head still on 16 was crucial to setting me up for my first green jacket.



MORE THOUGHTS FROM TOM

When I think back to my decision to play a 5-iron on the 16th that day at Augusta instead of a 6-iron, it reminds me that underclubbing is an all-too-common problem among weekend golfers.

Think about taking more club when the air is damp, when there's a strong headwind, or when shooting at a raised green. If these conditions are combined, you probably need even more club.

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