Lessons from the PGA Tour: The Masters

The 2012 Masters tournament did not lack for excitement. From a double eagle early in the final round to an amazing escape shot during the playoff, it was some extraordinarily captivating golf.

As you might expect, there were plenty of lessons to be learned from watching the best golfers in the world playing one of the most beautiful courses on the planet. We noticed three principles that we want to keep in mind when we are playing, whether it’s a friendly round with our friends or a club tournament with bragging rights on the line.

Paying attention to such lessons is an important part of finding out how to get better at golf. It also is interesting to see which clubs highlighted in the 2012 golf club reviews are being used by tour players this year.

Here is a video of Daniel and I discussing the three lessons we learning from watching the Masters.

The first lesson focuses on Phil Mickelson, who finished third at the Masters, two strokes behind the two players who made it into the playoff. After the tournament, Mickelson talked about how he kept to his strategy of attacking pins at the right times.

Many golfers will aim at the flag even if it’s tucked behind a bunker in a most inaccessible position. The better play likely would be to aim at the middle of the green.

The point is to have a strategy before you start your round and stick to it.

The second lesson involves Masters champion Bubba Watson. He can hit the ball a mile even though he has never had a golf lesson in his life.

Watson won the tournament on the second playoff hole, thanks in large part to an incredible shot out of the trees. He hooked the ball around some limbs and onto the green.

Watson’s success should give hope to anybody who has played the game. You might not win the Masters, but you can get better if you have the desire.

The third lesson also focuses on Watson. He was witness to one of the rarest shots in golf, a double eagle, also known as an albatross.

On the second hole during the final round, Watson’s playing partner, Louis Oosthuizen, surged into the lead by making a 2 on a par 5. It would have been understandable if Watson would have faded into the background with all the hoopla of a double eagle going on around him.

The Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell has an excellent overview of the scene.

But Watson kept his head in the game. He eventually tied Oosthuizen and won the Green Jacket on the second playoff hole.

We should remember that the next time one of our playing partners hits an incredible shot. It’s also worth keeping in mind when a golfer in our group hits a terrible shot. Play your game.

Here’s our usual outtake video for comic relief. Believe me when I say that we had plenty to choose from. It took us about 35 tries to get usable video.

In this video, Daniel turns his head when he is about to laugh. I thought he was looking at something behind me.

Despite numerous mess-ups and crack ups, we had a great time making the video. We had almost as much fun as we did watching Bubba Watson win the 2012 Masters and learning lessons from the PGA Tour along the way.

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Daniel Talks About Learning How To Play Golf

learning how to play golfAs Daniel is learning how to play golf, he is gaining valuable lessons often as he is on the golf course and on the driving range. Recently, he has noticed two ways that he has learned how to play better golf.

First, he has learned that he does not have to hit a driver off every tee. Second, he has learned the importance of the short game and knowing how to chip and putt.

Here is a video of Daniel talking about how he has learned these two important golf lessons.

Daniel learned that he does not have to hit his driver off every tee when he hit an errant tee shot. He decided to hit a provisional shot with this three-wood. He hit that shot in the fairway, and it went nearly as far as his driver.

This is an important lesson for Daniel as he is learning how to play golf. He has only been playing golf for about three years. He is only 13 years old, so when he first started he could not hit the ball very far. He could hit a good tee shot and a good second shot and still be a good ways from the green on a par 4.

So I think Daniel just got used to always having to hit a driver off the tee in an effort to get as far down the fairway as possible. Now that he can hit the ball farther, he sees that a fairway wood can be the smarter play.

Daniel also is realizing the importance of the short game as he is learning how to play golf. In one of our “Lessons from the PGA Tour” posts, we talked about the old adage, that you drive for show, but putt for dough.

Daniel recently played nine holes and only needed 11 putts. The reason he got by with so few putts is because he was both chipping and putting the ball well.

When you miss the green with your approach shot, you can still make par if you hit a good chip. It’s nice to have a birdie putt, but it’s also nice when you can get up and down regularly for par.

I expect Daniel will gain even more valuable insights as he is learning how to get better at golf over the coming years.

For comic relief here are a couple of outtakes while we were making the video about what Daniel has learned on the golf course. In the first one, the way Daniel describes hitting a driver instead of “less than” strikes me funny.

In this video, I was doing my best not to laugh. If you look closely you can see how I’m biting my lip. It didn’t work.

On the bright side, I think it’s important to have fun as you are learning how to play golf. So I don’t feel so bad about laughing during the videos.

If you think some new clubs would help your game, be sure to check out our 2012 golf club reviews. We also can help if you’re looking for reasonably priced golf clubs.

If you’re looking for the latest tour news, we suggest PGATour.com. For discussion about golf issues, we like Golf WRX.




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Golf Team Off to a Good Start

Daniels’ varsity golf team is off to a good start this year in its quest to qualify for the state tournament. The team’s record is 17-3.

Daniel Prepares for a Chip Shot

Daniel just before he hit a chip shot during a recent match.

Three of the teams four matches have include seven or all eight of the teams in the conference. Daniel’s team came in third, second and first in those matches.

The first place was a good win because one of the teams in the conference returned all its players from last year’s team, which finished third in the state.

Daniel’s team won its other match, which was against one other team.

Here’s Daniel giving an overview of how the season is going so far. He also talks about how his golf game is going.

Here’s an outtake for comic relief. Daniel thought I was going to introduce him, probably because I had just said I was going to introduce him about 30 seconds earlier.

Daniel’s team has one or two matches this week and a number of matches left before the conference tournament and hopefully the state golf tournament. If his team continues to play well, they have a good shot at making it to the state tournament in Pinehurst.

Update: Daniel’s team lost to the best team in the conference in a match at that team’s home course. They were the only two teams in the match. Daniel said only one of the players on his team had a good match. It also was the first time most of the players on Daniel’s team had played that course.

Members of Daniel’s team rebounded to take first in a match involving five teams from the conference, including the team they lost to earlier in the week. The match was at another team’s home course.

Daniel said most of the golfers on his team played well that day. Five of the six players shot less than 50.

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Daniel’s Golf Game Improving

Golf Approach Shot

Daniel hits an approach shot during a round earlier this year.

Daniel’s golf game is improving as he continues to learn how to get better at golf.

Daniel shot a 47 over nine holes in his team’s latest match last week. The team came in second among seven teams.

More importantly, they were only nine strokes behind the winning team. In a previous match, Daniel’s team was third and finished about 20 strokes behind the winning team.

In a practice round yesterday, Daniel shot a 44. He got up and down from around the green four times and needed only 15 putts for the nine holes.

He has figured out the importance of the short game. As we learned from the AT&T Pebble Beach installment of Lessons from the PGA Tour, you drive for show, but you putt for dough.

He finished eight over par, even though he had two triple bogeys. If he could have held those scores to bogeys, he would have shot a 40.

Overall, Daniel is progressing well in his golf game. He is continuing to improve.

He has another match tomorrow. We’ll let you know how it goes.

By the way, Daniel has asked me several times about the potential birthday present that I mention in the article about reasonably priced golf clubs, but I’m not letting him in on the secret yet.

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Daniel Places First in Middle School Golf Match


Daniel hits an approach shot in an earlier varsity match.

Daniel had the low score in a middle school golf match Tuesday, shooting a personal record five over par, 41, on nine holes. His team won the match by about 10 strokes.

Since Daniel is playing on the varsity team this year, he had not expected to play in the middle school match. The coach asked him to fill in when three members on the middle school team couldn’t play. Daniel is eligible to play for the middle school team because he is in eighth grade.

In the match, Daniel had four pars and five bogeys. He hit two of seven fairways and three of the nine greens in regulation.

Daniel’s score 10 strokes better than he shot in a varsity tournament. Keep in mind that the middle school teams play from the front tees, while the varsity plays from the regular tees, but 41 is still a good score.

As a matter of fact, Daniel had to hit irons off several tees in the middle school match because his driver or another wood would have hit through the fairway into trouble.

Daniel also played in a varsity match this week. He finished second on his team, which finished second among five conference teams in the match.

His score of 50 was only a stroke better than his first varsity match, but the most recent match was on a harder course. He had never played the Lonnie Poole Golf Course, which is home of N.C. State University’s golf team, so overall it was a good effort.

Daniel has golf matches each of the next two weeks. And, of course, he also will have practices most afternoons as he learns how to get better at golf.





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Daniel plays in his first match of the season

How To Get Better At Golf

Daniel hits a drive during his first golf match of the season.

Daniel played in his first match of the golf season last week. He didn’t have a great day, but since he had only been playing for about a week since coming back from an injury, he did all right, and his team won the match.

Daniel started out with a triple bogey on his first hole and had five double bogeys on his way to a 15-over pay 51 in the nine-hole match. There were a few bright spots as he had one par and had two birdie opportunities even though he three-putted for bogey both times.

The course was wet so he wasn’t getting much roll on his drives and his iron shots weren’t going as far as expected. He also was having trouble on the greens, which were slower than usual. He had a number of three putts after leaving his first putt well short of the hole.

For what it’s worth, Daniel said he also was distracted at one point by an over-zealous father taking photos during the round. We’ll have to learn our lesson on that one and stay farther away with the camera or at least make sure he doesn’t see me.

Daniel has played better in practice rounds since the match. He shot a 90 over 18 holes and had nine-hole scores of 51, 46 and 45 when he played 27 holes yesterday.

One of Daniel’s goals as he learns how to get better at golf is to eliminate the bad holes which lead to high scores. He also is working on his putting, trying to get rid of the three-putt greens.

His next match isn’t until next week, so he should be closer to regular form by then.

Here is a video of Daniel discussing the opening match of the year.

And for those who can’t get enough of seeing Daniel and I (mostly me) flub up on camera, here’s an outtake. Daniel ends the video with a comment about not using it.

And we’re even throwing in a bonus outtake, as it took us several tries to get a decent video of Daniel talking about his first golf match of the season.

As you can see, I realized that it was heading for the outtake file pretty quickly.

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Lessons from the PGA Tour: Northern Trust Open

We can’t all hit the ball like the pros on the PGA Tour, but we can still learn how to get better at golf from the way they play the game.

This week’s edition of lessons from the PGA Tour focuses on the Northern Trust Open played Feb. 16-19 at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Bill Haas won the tournament in extra holes.

Here’s a video explaining the three lessons: take your medicine, be ready for anything and be a good sport.

The first lesson is take your medicine. In other words, when you hit a bad shot, don’t make it worse by attempting a more difficult shot.

In the playoff, Haas and his two competitors, Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley were playing a short par 4. All three went for the green with Mickelson and Bradley going right and short of the putting surface and Haas hitting into the rough long and to the left.

All three had difficult 2nd shots. Haas could have tried a really tough shot over the bunker, but instead hit to the fat of the green, leaving himself with about a 40-foot putt. After the other players missed the green, Haas drained his putt for a birdie, which won him the tournament when neither Mickelson or Bradley could match it.

Here’s video of the putt courtesy of PGATour.com.

The second lesson is to be ready for anything. Haas finished before Mickelson and Bradley and was leading both of them by a shot as they were playing the 18th hole.

Instead of just standing around watching, Haas assumed the other two players were going to make birdie and force a playoff and kept warm by hitting balls on the range.

When Mickelson and then Bradley rolled in birdie putts, Haas was ready to play extra holes.

The third lesson is to be a good sport. After Mickelson rolled in his putt for birdie on the 18th hole, two interesting things happened.

First, even after making an important putt, Mickelson made sure he stepped over the line of Bradley’s putt. Then Bradley reached over and congratulated Mickelson with a fist bump.

Both showed good sportsmanship.

If you take your medicine when you hit a bad shot, make sure you’re ready for anything and show good sportsmanship, you’ll have a great time as you learn how to get better at golf.

As usual, here’s some comic relief with a couple of outtakes from our video about the three lessons. This time, I had plenty to choose from as it took Daniel and me 20 tries to get a usable video.

In this video, Daniel almost takes out the camera with his famous fedora.

And here, Daniel introduces himself as me. You can tell we were getting a little goofy.

Closer to home, Daniel’s first golf match is this week. We’ll let you know how he does.

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Daniel Cleared by the Doctor to Play Golf

golf swing after injury

This is one of Daniel’s first golf swings after coming back from his broken collar bone.

About a month after Daniel broke his collar bone playing soccer, the doctor gave him the go-ahead this week to play golf. Now he is free to continue his efforts to learn how to get better at golf.

There was an anxious moment when the doctor told Daniel that he could not play sports for four weeks, but when Daniel asked about golf, the doctor clarified that he meant Daniel had to stay away from contact sports.

The timing couldn’t be better because practice for the varsity golf team starts this week. Most of the team that narrowly missed qualifying for the state tournament last year are back this season.

Daniel hit short iron shots today for the first time since the injury. Here’s video of Daniel hitting his first full wedge shot from “an undisclosed location” in front of our house.

Before long, Daniel was hitting the ball pretty well. In fact, several of his shots were about as before he was hurt. Here he is hitting a wedge shot that carried about 100 yards and nearly went into a lake across the street from our house.

Daniel said his golf team will probably go to the driving range tomorrow. He plans to hit his driver, woods and long irons then.

The team will have a week and day of practice before the players tee it up for their first golf match on March 6. The season lasts about two months.

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Lessons from the PGA Tour: AT&T Pebble Beach

Golfers can always learn something about the game by watching the players on the PGA Tour. Those of us who play for fun might never have the perfect swings of the professionals, but we can still pick up useful tips that will help improve our games.

We’re going to highlight some of those tips in a new feature at HowToGetBetterAtGolf.com called “Lessons from the PGA Tour.” Here is the video version.

We learned several things during the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which was held Feb. 9-12 in Pebble Beach, Calif.

Lesson 1: Concentrate on your own game. Don’t get distracted by what anyone else is doing on the course.

Eventual winner Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods were paired together during the final round at Pebble Beach. As you might expect, the pairing got a lot of attention before and during the round.

On the par 3 12th hole, Woods hit his tee shot in a bunker. Mickelson missed the green and hit his chip about 30 feet past the hole.

Woods holed his bunker shot for a birdie, but Mickelson kept his focus and drained his par putt. He made birdie on the next two holes and went on to win the tournament by two strokes.

Lesson 2: Drive for show, but putt for dough. This old adage was evident in Mickelson’s final round, when he came from eight shots behind to win.

According to Mickelson’s stats (which are available here), his driving distance was 28 yard shorter in the fourth round than the third, but he gained more than 4.6 strokes on the field by making the 30-footer on the 12th and several other long putts.

Woods meanwhile outdrove Mickelson by an average of more than 30 yards in the round, but lost more than 4.2 strokes to the field by missing a number of short, makeable putts. (Woods’ stats can be found here.)

Lesson 3: Keep playing the entire round.

Mickelson was leading Charlie Wi by two strokes going into the final hole, a par 5. Mickelson, who was playing ahead of Wi, made a medium length birdie putt to increase his lead to three.

The putt seem insignificant when Wi had to lay-up in the fairway with his second shot. But his third shot nearly hit the flag. If Mickelson had missed his putt, Wi could have tied the tournament with that eagle.

You may never win a National Pro-am tournament, but you’ll play better if you concentrate on your game, practice putting and keep playing until the last putt falls in the hole.

For a little comic relief, here’s an outtake from our Lessons Learned video. Enjoy.

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Daniel’s Injury and Mental Preparation for Golf

Mental Preparation For Golf

Daniel has been wearing a brace and sling since he broke his collarbone.

Daniel broke his collarbone last week, so it looks like he’s going to focus on the mental preparation for golf over the next three weeks or so.

The injury itself could have been worse. The doctor at the emergency room initially thought he had fractured his shoulder, too. If so, he would have been out for several months.

As it is, the bone doctor initially said four to six weeks. At a follow-up appointment this week, he said it will probably be closer to four.

That is good news for Daniel who remains committed to learning how to get better at golf because he should be ready when practice starts in late February.

Meanwhile, Daniel cannot pick up a golf club while wearing a brace and a sling. No drivers. No three-woods. No hybrids. No irons.

In the video below, Daniel mentions perhaps practicing some one-arm putts or one-arm chips, but we decided that would likely do more harm than good, so he is taking it easy.

I have suggested to Daniel that he focus on his mental preparation for golf. That is not easy, of course, because it is a lot more fun to play golf than it is to think about playing golf.

Golf Mental Preparation

Daniel is visualizing the pain he was in when he first broke his collarbone. He was not really in that much pain when I took this photo.

One of the things that Daniel can do is concentrate on visualizing golf shots. Most great golfers visualize golf shots before they hit the ball.

If Daniel can learn how to visualize his shots while he is hurt, he’ll improve much faster once he gets back out on the golf course. The good thing is that he can do this most any time. He just needs a few seconds to imagine hitting a shot in his mind.

I believe this will be a very important mental preparation for golf while he is recovering.

But I want Daniel to take visualization even farther. I want him to spend time playing an entire round of golf in his mind. He should imagine the entire process, from walking into the clubhouse before the round to putting out on the last green.

This is similar to a story I’ve heard several times, which Snopes identifies as a legend, about a prisoner of war who imagines playing golf every day while in captivity and plays better after his release than he did before.

I think that this exercise will especially help Daniel focus on improving areas of his golf game that need work. For example, if he wants to hit better drives, he can imagine every tee shot going long and straight.

Moreover, Daniel can use the exercise to help him get over some mental blocks about holes he doesn’t like. Once he imagines himself playing those holes better, he stands a better chance of playing them better when he returns from his injury.

Finally, I want Daniel to practice mental preparation for golf by thinking about being in pressure situations.

I would like for him to focus on what it would be like to stand over a 10-foot putt with a chance to win an important tournament.

I want him to feel the stress of needing to get up and down to help his high school golf team win the conference championship.

He needs to feel what it is like to hit tee shots, iron shots and putts when the tension is high.

So far Daniel has handled his injury well. He’s done what the doctor has told him to do, because he wants to be able to play when the golf season starts.

Meanwhile, we’re checking out 2012 golf club reviews and thinking about fun golf games to play on the course when he returns.

I expect that the mental preparation for golf will have him ready to play when the time comes. For those who are used to a little comic relief from this site, the following video is an outtake of Daniel describing his injury. Enjoy.

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