Jordan Spieth made history on Sunday with his third major win before the age of 24, and he did it while fighting his swing for the first part of the final round at Royal Birkdale.
Speith was masterful down the stretch as he first gave away his lead, but took it back in grand style when he played the last five holes five under.
So, what can you learn from the Champion Golfer of the Year? Here are three things.
Limit your mistakes to bogeys
On the thirteenth hole on Sunday, Spieth hit a ball so far right that he was lucky to find it. He did find it, however. He took a drop for an unplayable lie and made what can only be described as an all-world bogey.
But that’s the point! He made a bogey, and not worse.
At that point in the round, by making limiting the damage to a bogey, he only fell to one back of Matt Kuchar which was important because a double bogey may have been too much from which to recover.
That bogey gave him momentum and confidence. So much so that he was able to play the next four holes in 2-3-3-4 (5-under.)
A double-bogey might have called to mind his collapse at the Masters in 2016 and once a player is in his head, it’s easy to implode.
Spieth took his time, made sure to play according to the rules, got his ball in front of the green and made a great up-and-down to save the bogey.
Here’s the lesson: Double bogeys and worse are simply too hard to recover from and can kill any momentum you might have or are seeking.
For every double-bogey, you have to make two birdies. For a pro, that is no problem, but for the likes of you and I, we simply do not make enough birdies to bounce back. Double-bogeys, quite simply, are round killers for most of us.
When you get in trouble, take your medicine and take double-bogey or worse out of the equation. Unless you have a high degree of certainty you are going to be able to pull off a hero shot, when you’re in trouble, play it safe and make your bogey.
Speaking of playing according to the rules…
Know the rules!
At the time he hit his tee shot right of right on the 13th hole, many of the commentators were talking about how Spieth should have gone back to the tee and played from there.
Certainly, he had that option, but his other options were to play the ball as it lied or to take an unplayable lie.
The pros have the advantage of having rules officials with them to explain their options and ensure they are playing according to the rules (which calls into question why any player on any major tour would ever take an improper drop.)
Because we don’t always have officials to assist us, we have to know the rules so we can play within them and ensure our competitors do, too.
I’m not saying you have to know every single rule inside and out (although I would hardly fault with anyone for wanting to.) What I’m saying is you should be familiar with your options under the rules for most situations you might encounter.
Knowing the rules can save you time, strokes, and long walks back to the tee to reload.
Focus on hitting greens in regulation and putting
Jordan Spieth ranked tied for 100th for the week in hitting fairways at Birkdale and will never be called a long hitter off the tee, but he was tied for 3rd in greens in regulation and 16th in average putts per round.
He made a clutch putt after clutch putt on the last six holes, including a bomb for eagle on 15, and the testy bogey on 13.
All of this goes to show that you don’t have to be the longest off the tee and you don’t have to hit every fairway, but if you can get your ball on the green and make some putts, you can perform. Obviously, this tournament and this course allow for more playability if you miss the fairway when compared to the U.S. Open, but the point is that length off the tee and hitting a massive number of fairways is not going to improve your scores the way getting on the green more often and making putts will.
The temptation is to blast drivers on the driving range because it’s fun to swing hard and watch the ball sail off into the distance, but if you devote more time to your short irons on the range and your putting on the practice green, you are going to see your scores improve dramatically and quickly.
Remember, 67% of the game is played from 150 and closer to the green, and half the game is played on the green. Let me say that again: HALF the game is played on the green! So, even if you don’t practice your short and middle irons, you can take strokes off your game simply by practicing lag putting and knocking down putts from inside six feet.
Just like the Champion Golfer of the Year for 2017.
Cover Image via YouTube