Cash In On The Par 5s
If you think only bombers can score on the par 5s, think again. Over the past two years, I've never ranked better than 150th on tour in driving distance, but during that period, I've played the par 5s in 194 under. And remember when I won the Masters in 2007? I didn't go for a single par-5 green in two that week, but I made 11 birdies in 16 tries. So what's my secret? I play aggressively but never outside my capabilities. If you're not routinely reaching par 5s in two, then that's how you, too, should approach these holes. Take my advice, and you'll make more birdies.
PICK ACCURACY OVER DISTANCE
Put the ball in the fairway. You might think you have an extra gear with the driver, but now's not the time to prove it. Go with your stock shot.
When in doubt, a fade is a good choice for control. Set up on the right side of the tee box and aim toward the left side of the fairway. Make a smooth swing, and hold the clubface square to your target for as long as you can (above). In other words, don't let your right forearm cross over your left as you swing through. If you hold off the face rotation, the ball will start on your target line and fade back to the center or right side of the fairway.
STAY SHARP ON YOUR LAY-UP
Don't lose your focus. I know hitting your second shot on a par 5 can feel like you're back on the range, because you've got all that room and don't have to dial in to a specific yardage. But treat this like a precision shot (above, left). Your goal is to have a wedge in your hands for your third shot, and you should aim for the flattest part of the fairway. Hit this lay-up as if you were executing one of the most important shots of the day.
GET TO THE PIN THE EASIEST WAY
Keep the ball down. If someone asked you to throw a ball into a garbage can 10 feet away, would you throw it way up in the air and hope it dropped in, or would you toss it right at the basket? The lower you can hit your wedge into the green, the better your chances of knocking it stiff.
Three things will help you do this. First, play the ball back in your stance (above, right). This will decrease the loft on the clubface at impact. Second, use one club more than you normally would and grip down on it an inch or two. Third, make what feels like a three-quarter swing. Also, pay attention to the slopes on a green. Sometimes you can use them to funnel your ball down to the hole. You might not have to shoot right at the flag.
GIVE THE PUTT A CHANCE TO DROP
We're playing for birdies here, so resist the urge to lag the putt close for an easy par. Focus on hitting it with enough speed to roll past the hole. If it's a breaking putt, the ideal speed would have the ball fall in the top edge of the cup. Let gravity do the work. That's a low-risk birdie.