Pros on the PGA Tour accept the challenge of tricky shots

Posted Sunday, May. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Seeing television images of recovery shots like the one Phil Mickelson hit at the 72nd hole at Colonal in 2008, are certainly the ones that golf fans remember.

His birdie putt capped a fantastic recovery and helped him to the winner’s check.

But those who looked closely at the lie or had a better view than the television coverage know a different story.

For touring professionals like Mickelson, the shot, while challenging, was somewhat routine — mixed in with some luck.

After shoving his tee shot left into Colonial’s thick 18th hole rough, the ball was back just far enough for him to wedge a shot over the final thicket of trees and onto the green.

Probably not very routine for the average amateur player, but the answers lie in the philosophical approach taken.

“The No. 1 problem amateurs have is taking too much club and trying to hit shots that don’t make sense,” Tour veteran Bo Van Pelt said. “Most of them have a hard time hitting the same club from the fairway as opposed to trying to hit it from the rough.”

Van Pelt said the first and only consideration when hitting shots from the rough is assessment of the lie.

In the long grass, there are many different ways in which the ball is positioned. It could be sitting down, which is to say the ball is surrounded by thick grass on all sides.

Or the ball could be sitting up, which is to indicate the ball is nestled on top of grass with less resistance to the way the club can attack the ball at impact.

From there, Van Pelt said, most common mistakes occur. By taking too much club and trying to reach the green, more often than not players end up getting into deeper trouble because the club used has less loft than what’s needed.

“The game is about limiting mistakes,” he said. “What I try to do is assess the realistic ways of reaching the green from the lie I have. What I like to do is create more of V-shape with my swing or attack from a steeper position and try to hit the ball first.”

Van Pelt said many “heroic” shots by touring professionals started with the idea of playing away from the flagstick.

“More often than not, things tend to work out, but it’s about how you approach the shot to get the best results,” he said.

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