The most awesome thing about golf is that it’s the one sport where amateurs can relate to issues their favorite touring pros are suffering from. Despite the difference in skill level, it’s possible, on occasion, to achieve greatness at the same level as the best players in the world. For example, a middle-aged round belly like me has no idea what it’s like to try to hit a 95 mph fast ball 400 feet over a wall. I’ll never know, but I could conceivably birdie the toughest golf hole on a tour track with a couple purely struck shots and a little luck.
So, this past week, I eagerly anticipated the return of Tiger Woods to active competition, and was paying particular attention to Tiger’s chipping since both he and I have been suffering from the chip yips for a protracted period. I’m sure my problems were much worse, but his were more magnified. Either way, I was paying close attention to see how he handled himself under the pressure of a major. I heard all the pre-tournament talk from Tiger about how he, “worked his ass off,” during his long layoff, but the true nugget was when I learned he changed out all his wedges. Ever since I changed my wedges out a couple years ago, I’ve struggled greenside with my chips and pitches using my 58. The bladed low ball has become an unwanted playing partner and the longer it stayed, the more it started to infect my thinking and other parts of my short game.
Fast forward to Masters Thursday and I was at Whispering Pines in Myrtle Beach practicing for my Friday round at Myrtle Beach National. The blade ball had reared it’s ugly head again and I was starting to panic with the prospect of hitting low screamers from tight Bermuda lies. Then I remembered Tiger changing out his wedges and figured what the heck. I started hitting the same shots with my 54 instead of the 58. Bingo! All touch and feel returned, as did the nice little “thump” you get from a purely struck short shot off a tight lie. After a few adjustments for the lower loft, I was making clean contact every time and getting them close. I was thinking the blade ball was being caused by too much bounce on the flange of the 58, but still wasn’t sure.
The next day, during my pre-round warm up, I chipped with the 54 and actually made a couple. Then I went out and shot a tidy little 2-over 74 which was unexpected, but felt natural with the returned boost in confidence. If you don’t think a little confidence in one small area can take your game a long way, you are highly mistaken! I didn’t hit the ball that great, but was relaxed and got it up and down out of some trash can lies.
I used to play these shots with a 56, then moved to the 58 with the new clubs, and now it’s down to a 54. So what’s four degrees of loft here or there? Has this ever happened to you? Please share if you have a similar experience.