I try to do everything during a round with a purpose and do it as best I can. I don’t let up, not even for one shot. That’s who I am. I think this philosophy has helped me improve my scoring every year I’ve been on tour. From a mechanics standpoint, my coach at the University of Florida, Buddy Alexander, always told me: “When you start playing professional golf and move up the ranks, you’re going to get shorter.” What he meant was that when scoring becomes such a big priority, you tend to swing more for control than for distance. I think working on making solid impact and swinging within yourself are crucial. Here are some of the thoughts I bring with me every time I play.
When I’m getting ready to putt, I always try to remember the best putts I’ve ever made. Or I imagine it’s matchplay, and I’ve got this birdie putt to beat one of my teammates from college who I hated losing to. I get so focused, and it helps me make a nice, aggressive stroke.
If you’re nervous over putts, don’t fight it. Embrace it. I’ve had a lot of three-footers where I was shaking. But you’ve got to realise, it’s OK to be nervous. Make it exciting, and look forward to those situations. And if you miss? Who cares what other people think.
Spin It Up
When I want to generate more spin into a green, I take a club less than I normally would and swing harder; stretch it up a bit.
Aiming is such an important part of making birdies. Before I hit any drive, iron shot or even putt, I want an extremely precise target. In the fairway, I don’t say to myself, I’m going to go over that bunker. That bunker might be 30 yards wide. I say, I’m going over the left edge of that bunker. It really helps to narrow your focus if you pick as specific a target as possible.
Making birdies is a lot about attitude. I wake up every morning saying to myself that I’m going to give it my best shot. You should approach every round like that. If you do, you’re going to be a champion, at least for yourself.
My key mechanical thought is the left wrist. Whether I’m in the rough with an awkward lie or have a perfect lie in the middle of the fairway, I focus on my left wrist feeling solid and square to the target through impact. The position of my left wrist influences my ball flight so much. I know if I can get the back of my hand facing the target at impact, it’s going to be a good shot.
It’s tough to make birdies if you don’t have the right yardage. I try to get to a final number. You have to take into consideration all of the information you can about the shot, but once you’ve gone through that process, pick a yardage and stick with it. Don’t second-guess yourself.
I get asked a lot how I’m able to hit it so far. I tell people that whenever I need to give the ball a little extra hit, I try to get very relaxed and free. To do this, I flex my muscles tight, then I relax so I can feel the difference. Trying to swing harder can make you tense up and restrict the body and club’s natural movement.
Teeing It Up
I like to play with the tee height, especially if I need to carry the ball a good way. I’ll tee it higher and swing more up on the ball.
Chip V Putt
If I’m just trying to get up and down, I’ll putt it. But if I’m trying to hole the shot, I think it’s better to chip or pitch because you can remove the variables of the fringe. I make a number of birdies this way.