Friday, April 22, 2016

Observations

Mark Broadie's book Every Shot Counts is based largely on stats captured on the PGA Tour. While the book is extremely helpful in understanding how players play to their unique strengths, I've wondered if it related as closely to the LPGA, because there seems to be a direct correlation between putting and scoring on the LPGA. If you look at the top five performers this year on the LPGA, they rank top five in $ and top five in PGIR. All hit over 70% of their greens and all average under 1.8 putts on greens hit. It's a perfect correlation. That is very rare for any stat category, so we better pay attention.
Here's Lydia Ko's story using her stats this year. She is 64th in driving accuracy and 125th in driving distance. That doesn't sound good, but she still hits 13 of 14 fairways and hits it an average of 250 yards, so it isn't bad. She hits 13 or 14 greens per round (75.99%) and averages 1.69 putts per green hit. That means if she hits 13 greens, she has 22 putts on those greens. She almost never 3 putts and she makes about 4 birdies. She averages 28.50 putts per round, so on the 5 greens she's missed, she averages 3.5 successful up and downs, which is 70%. She is the leading money winner with over $1,000,000 already this year. When you put those stats in front of you and break them down, it's clear that the closer she gets to the hole, the more money she makes!
Lydia Ko works on her putting in all weather to be the Boss of the Moss on the LPGA.  Notice she has feedback from both another pair of eyes and training aids on the green.
If you want to win on tour, you need to learn to control your golf ball. Start at the hole and work backwards. Learn to aim well, especially with your putter. Next, learn to control the speed of your putts; on any surface, in any condition, on any slope. Speed control comes from controlling how solidly you hit your putts (centeredness) and your rhythm and tempo of stroke. Then learn to read greens well by increasing awareness and learning to pay attention to what is around you. So many young players put so much attention inward or on the past that they lose awareness and fail at the one skill - awareness- that allows them to become a great green reader.


When you begin to master these skills, focus on hitting greens. This is a skill that encompasses ball striking, but isn't completely predicated on ball striking as so many people believe. It is also related to your awareness. Are you judging the slope your ball is on? Are you judging the wind and able to play a shot that matches the wind's demands? Are you gauging the elevation changes well? Are you able to see where the golf course can help you get the ball to the hole by using slopes or bounces? Can you see how the designer is trying to lure you to make mistakes? Hitting greens seems to be about being a great ball striker and of course, that helps a lot, but if you want to hit 13-14 greens a round, you must also be great at playing all kinds of shots in all kinds of conditions.


Positioning yourself in the right places is a big part of hitting greens. If you think of course management as always being two steps ahead, you will begin to see the value of your position. How can you give yourself the best view of your target? How can you bring your approach into the hole without going over trouble? How can you set up a hole to play to your dominant shot? Where can you get the flattest lie? If you are playing the game with a lot of focus on what you're doing and little focus on what the course demands, it will take you longer to improve your scoring. In other words, it's not always about you! Over the years, I've seen some of the best ball strikers fail to succeed on tour because they fail to learn to control their ball on the greens as outlined above or they are always working on themselves instead of working on matching their games with what each course demands. If you begin to think of your game as a relationship with the course, the conditions and the pressures of the day, it will change your outlook and put you in tune with developing your game to score instead of for perfection.
The farther you get from the hole, the less important the stat on the LPGA. You don't have to be tremendously long or even perfectly accurate off the tee. You simply have to be in position to hit the green. Once again, it's about control more than anything else.

As I watch players develop and mature as players, the ones who seem to "get it" are the ones who are honest about their skills and needs. They focus on developing their games so that their weaknesses become strengths. They don't become bored or distracted at practice, but stay tuned in to what their focus is for the session. They listen and weigh their progress and understand that all is within their power with hard work. Their practice isn't routine, it's planned for their needs, which will vary. Their practice isn't social, but if they need a break they take it. Great players are aware of what they need and they make sure they focus on it to walk away a better player each and every day.



My Gentle Teacher

My dad was a good man.  He passed in 1998 and I still miss him a lot.  He had a smile that lit up his eyes and he had bright blue eyes.  He ...