How Tiger’s Masters Helped My Golf Game

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.

from thesun.co.uk

from thesun.co.uk

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.

Thanks Tiger!

 

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About Brian Penn

Avid sports fan and golf nut. I am a lifelong resident of the Washington D.C. area and love to follow the local teams. Also worked as a golf professional in the Middle Atlantic PGA for several years and am intrigued by the game to no end. I love to play and practice and am dedicated to continual improvement.
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17 Responses to How Tiger’s Masters Helped My Golf Game

  1. jimjet says:

    Have had the same experience with switching out my wedge! Whispering Pines in Myrtle is the old Air Force Base course and have enjoyed rounds there in the past. Thanks for a nice article!

    • Brian Penn says:

      I’ve never played Whispering Pines but always seem to be in a hotel by the airport and it’s very convenient to practice there. Glad I went this time because of what I learned. Thanks!

      Brian

  2. Brian,

    I’m happy to hear this! It’s amazing what a little confidence can do around the greens — a 74 sounds tidy indeed! Well done.

    It was quite remarkable to watch Tiger last week and see how far along his short game had come. Despite being a bit erratic at times with his long game, his chipping was always spot on…just his putter let him down on occasion. It just shows that hard work pays off, and really motivated me to get out there and work hard on my short game this season. I’m not totally convinced Tiger had the yips, but rather had more of a technical flaw in his transition that stripped him of his confidence, similar to your situation. Although I’ve never seen you play, I don’t think you have or have ever had the yips. Players with the yips do not just go out and shoot 74. Sometimes we just need to make little adjustments to our game to get our confidence and swagger back.

    Cheers
    Josh

    • Brian Penn says:

      Josh, believe me, it was the chip yips. The blade bullets were cropping up all over the place and messing with my other short game shots as well. Whether it be physical or mental, it was some form of the yips and I’m not sure the sample size is big enough to say I’m over it; just that I’m encouraged from the change I made. Will get a chance to validate again on Saturday. Also, I don’t know if Tiger is back after one pretty good tournament. He’s still terribly injury prone and while his chipping looked good, I don’t like the wild inconsistent swings we see with the longer clubs. The U.S. Open will be an awesome test because it’s a ball striker’s tournament, more so than Augusta which is about short game. Can’t wait. Thanks for your kind words too.

      Brian

      • Brian,

        Good point about Tiger at Augusta. It’s also a course he knows very well, so it is easier to put together a decent showing without his best stuff. The US Open, or even The Players (if he plays) will be a different test all together. Although he hasn’t proved to be a front runner this season yet, it still adds an interesting dimension to the season.

        All the best with the chipping. It’ll come together. Look forward to more positive reports.

        Cheers
        Josh

        • Brian Penn says:

          Josh, Tiger will be in the field at THE PLAYERS in May. You can make a lot of birdies at TPC but if you’re hitting it poorly, the course will kill you. Should be an excellent test of mind and body. I would expect to see him at WGC the week before and then Ponte Vedra. I think we’ll have a clue after these two events on how his year will go.

          Thanks,

          Brian

  3. Brian

    Great article! Switching out your wedge was a great idea, and I echo Josh’s comments about shooting an awesome 74!

    I have faced similar problems in the past. About 10 years ago, I decided to expand my wedge selection in my bag. I now play with a 48,52,56 and 60 degree wedge. While adjusting to playing these clubs, I would routinely switch back and forth (my favorite back then was my 48 degree Pitching Wedge). I have now settled on the 56 and 60 degree wedge around the green and my 52 and 48 degree wedge for longer (75+) approach shots. It was not a smooth transition, but now I am comfortable with each.

    I also agree about Tiger, I am not sure he is over his injuries, but if he can settle on a swing, chip, and putt that works for him, he just might win another Major.

    Cheers
    Jim

    • Brian Penn says:

      Jim, your wedges are gaped nicely every four degrees. You must have excellent distance coverage inside 100 yards. I am at 46, 50, 54, and 58. By switching greenside to the 54 from the 58 I think I’ll improve feel but not mess with my full swing yardage coverages. Strangely enough, I still hit the 58 no problem out of the sand. It was just too bouncy off the turf. One round is a small sample size though. Can’t wait to get back at it on Saturday. Thanks!

      Brian

      • Brian

        One round, albeit a great round, is a small sample group, but if it gives you confidence……then it does not matter. I have worked on my distances with my wedges for years. Most of the time I have good distance control.

        I would suggest your confidence with your 54 degree wedge transferred to other parts of your game. That is always a great side effect of being confident! Good luck on our next round….your readers now expect great things 😉

        Cheers
        Jim

        • Brian Penn says:

          Jim, you nailed it as you usually do. The practice on Thursday with the 54 filled me with confidence Friday morning. My course management was spot on and oddly my putting was great. Awfully weird how a tidbit of confidence goes a long way. How do we bottle it?

          Thanks,

          Brian

        • Brian

          If we could bottle it, we would be rich and famous. Enjoy your round.

          Cheers
          Jim

  4. Wayne Halm says:

    Aloha Brian,
    A 74 – sounds like you are recovering nicely Big Guy! I love my wedge, it is all feel and confidence, when it is working it is a wonderful thing. But when it is not we don’t argue in public, I just hit something else. Glad to hear you are back on the course.
    A Hui Hou,
    Wayne

  5. Hi Brian, I have a 54 and a 60, and it seems that only one of them will work on any given day. If the first chip of the day is no good, I spend the rest of the round chipping with the other club, strange but true.
    Pete

  6. As usual Brian, you have found something that resonates with me. I have recently been struggling with my shorter wedge shots and this all started after I changed the shafts in my irons but not my wedges. I’ve been thinking about updating the wedges, but haven’t made the change yet. I think this just re-enforces that I need to get them looked at. Thanks!

    • Brian Penn says:

      Jon, the uncertainty of something like new shafts can spread through other parts of your game. There is nothing better than standing over a shot knowing you can pull it off. The opposite is equally destructive. Are you sure the problem is not in your iron shafts rather than your wedges? Find the root cause and solve for everything. Good luck!

      Brian

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