Golf Buzz

March 2, 2015 - 4:13pm
mark.aumann's picture
Padraig Harrington
USA Today Images
The second time was the charm Monday for Padraig Harrington at PGA National's daunting No. 17 hole.

When Padraig Harrington stepped up to the tee at PGA National's daunting par-3 17th hole Monday for the first time, he was holding a one-shot lead. All he needed to do was make solid contact, put the ball on the green and walk away with par.

After all, he had put together a string of four consecutive birdies earlier in the round to put himself in that situation.

Instead, he blocked a 5-iron into the lake and wound up carding a double bogey. A clutch birdie putt on No. 18 got Harrington into a playoff with 21-year-old Daniel Berger -- and after both players parred their first playoff hole, Harrington found himself once again staring across the water at the 17th green.

And this is what happened:



So how did Harrington put the memory of that terrible first shot aside to hit the shot that won the Honda Classic?


PGA Professional Christian Czaja of Boca West Country Club in Boca Raton, Fla., said it's a matter of believing in yourself and your abilities -- and that comes from having mental toughness. If you've been in that situation before -- and had a positive result -- you can draw on that.

"If I'm Padraig Harrington, I'm thinking 'I'm a major champion, I've been there, I can do this,' " Czaja said. "Drawing upon his previous experience has got to be helpful. Even if you haven't won for awhile, you never forget how to win. That really gives you that belief in your ability."

You may never face that kind of shot to win a tournament, but Czaja said you can hone your own mental game -- both on the range and the course. There's no reason one bad shot should snowball into a bad day, if you learn how to eliminate it from your mind before you step up to hit your next one.

"The mental part of the game is so important, and it's often overlooked," Czaja said. "When you're practicing on the range, or especially when you're on the course, it's more important to focus on the process -- what you're supposed to do and how to do it -- rather than focusing on only the results. You should be thinking about what you need to do to create a good swing, not on what went wrong the last time."

And that's what separates the professionals from the recreational players, Czaja said. Sure, they have caddies and coaches to settle them down and help them refocus. But staying in the moment -- especially when it comes to developing a consistent routine -- is part of why they're able to shake off a shank or worry less about the water.

And that was never more evident than in the final round of the Honda Classic, when it seemed like everyone who grabbed the lead at some point ran into serious trouble. 

"The best players in the world can have these poor shots, but almost always they're able to regroup and come back on the very next shot," Czaja said. "Even after hitting it in the water at No. 17, Harrington had enough composure to get a ruling on the very next shot.

"That's something players have to work on. And that's training yourself to go through a routine to prepare yourself for the next shot rather than worrying about what's already happened."



Czaja suggested a great pre-shot routine using these three steps:

1. Have a positive mental picture of the shot you want to hit

"Without question, you always visualize the shot in a positive light. Jack Nicklaus was one of the best at it. You want to see that successful shot in your mind first -- because it clears away any negative thoughts carried over from the previous one."

2. Prepare yourself by knowing the situation

"Before you hit a shot, you have to have a plan in mind of what you want to do. Look at the yardage. Check the conditions. Look at the lie. For pros, it's automatic. But what it does is puts you back in the moment. You're no longer worried about what happened in the past. Get in the habit of doing a checklist with every shot and you'll gain confidence in pressure situations."

3. Step up to the ball and execute

"The more you practice the routine, the more it becomes automatic under pressure. You go into autopilot. You'll know when to pull the trigger, because you've practiced it so much in your mind."

Czaja said any PGA Professional will be happy to help teach you more about the mental game, as well as assist you in improving your physical one.

Christian Czaja has been named PGA Teacher of the Year for South Florida. To reach him, visit his website at or call (844) 236-8465.



March 2, 2015 - 10:23am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Luke Donald
This house was incredibly friendly to an errant Luke Donald tee shot on Monday, sending the ball back to the middle of the fairway at PGA National's 13th hole.

Sometimes things just go your way on the golf course -- even if that "way" at first looks to be "wayward."

Just ask Luke Donald.

RELATED: Honda Classic leaderboard | Honda Classic photos


At 3-under par for the tournament and at that same mark for the final round of the Honda Classic on Monday, Donald stepped up to the 386-yard 13th hole at PGA National and unleashed a tee shot that was yanked way left. So far left that it hit the roof of a house out of bounds.

The Golf Gods were with Donald, however, as the ball caromed back into the middle of the fairway, leaving him 157 yards to the hole.

Donald got his approach shot on the green and two-putted for a not-so-routine par.

As for Donald's ShotLink stats, that'll count as just another fairway hit.

Check it out:


And, in case you were wondering: If your ball happens to bounce of a house and back into play, there's no penalty. However, that's not to say you wouldn't possibly receive a bill from the homeowner to repair a broken window. 

Patrick Reed
USA Today Images
Patrick Reed's birdie at No. 5 moved him into a tie with Ian Poulter at the Honda Open.

How fast can a three-shot deficit (or lead) get wiped out on the PGA Tour? Faster than you can say "birdie, double-bogey."

Ian Poulter was seemingly in cruise control early in Sunday's final round at PGA National, while Patrick Reed -- three shots back -- was struggling just to stay in contention.

But on the par-3 fifth hole, the unthinkable happened for Poulter:




Then Reed followed shortly thereafter with this clutch birdie putt from off the green:



When Poulter two-putted after taking a drop, suddenly the two were tied.

Three holes earlier, Reed was faced with an awkward shot in a muddy lie, but pulled off a perfect recovery, splitting two palm trees and winding up on the green, a shot that allowed him to salvage par and stay within striking distance of the leader.



Poulter promptly dumped his tee shot on the sixth hole in the water -- this time with a hook. He had to settle for bogey and trailed Reed by one stroke, giving up four shots over a two-hole span.

However, Reed returned the favor on No. 7 when he missed a short par putt and Poulter drained his birdie putt -- a two-shot swing in the other direction.

And when the horn sounded suspending play because of darkness, Poulter was back on top -- although tied now with Paul Casey -- with Reed one shot back, setting up what should be a whale of a final 11 holes Monday morning at PGA National.

Ian Poulter
PGA Tour via YouTube
Ian Poulter knocked in a long eagle shot a hole after his caddie shooed away a duck.
The combination of wind and rain at the Honda Classic today have certainly reduced the chances for eye-popping shots. We’ve seen a couple of nice putts and some decent recovery shots, but nothing as entertaining as Sergio Garcia smashing a fully submerged ball out of a lake and back into the fairway.
Given the conditions, Ian Poulter's wedge shot from 166 yards out on the par-4 fourth hole at PGA National really stood out. His shot hit the green bounced a few times and scooted just by the right edge of the  cup – then, for a few extra style points, it backed up, over and in. 
Perhaps coincidentally, Poulter's caddie had shooed a wayward duck away from his ball in the middle of the fairway on the par-5 third hole. Poulter went on to birdie that hole, then made his eagle and birdied the fourth. So you could argue that a duck cleared the way for Poulter's birdie-eagle-birdie stretch.
Or maybe you couldn't argue that. Either way, here's Poulter's eagle:
Peter Sagan
Tinkoff Saxo via YouTube
If you follow the Tour de France or some of the world's other elite cycling events, you're probably familiar with Peter Sagan. The 25-year-old from Slovakia has become one of the sport's great sprinters, and owns several race wins and individual stage victories thanks to his speed on the bike.
He's pedaling a lot slower in a video just posted by his Tinkoff Saxo team – because he's playing "bike golf." He and a teammate, during their "spring training" in Sicily last month, played a little golf by flicking golf balls toward the cup with their bike tires.
I have to admit I seized up a little bit when I first saw the riders pedaling so close to the flagstick – as someone who worked on a golf course in my teens, I still react strongly to any cuts or bruises on the putting surface. But seeing as how both players are on bikes, I guess maybe it's okay – though I’m glad that's not my home course they're using.
You see the "bike golf" video below. You can click here to see a video of Sagan's 2014 highlights (cycling, not golf) and click here for more on Sagan's Tinkoff Saxo squad.
Sergio Garcia
PGA Tour via YouTube
Sergio Garcia's splashy shot on Thursday might have just salvaged his round.
Sergio Garcia hasn't won the PGA Tour yet this season, but he's sure hit some memorable shots. Just last Saturday, he pulled off an unreal sand save in the third round of the Northern Trust Open. Then on Sunday, he followed it up with a clutch slam-dunk chip-in from the heavy rough at Riviera.
And today, on the par-5 18th hole (his ninth hole of the day) in his first round at the Honda Classic, he did it again.
Garcia's drive took a wicked hop into the water on the right side of the fairway. The ball wound up only a foot or two from dry land, but was completely underwater. 
In that situation, the smart play is to just take your medicine because making solid contact with a ball that's underwater – even if your feet are still on dry land – is a low-percentage play. Advancing it is even less likely.
Garcia, however, was unfazed. He surveyed the situation, put on his rain gear, and took a mighty swing – and not only got the ball out but got it back into the fairway. From there, he went on to make a most amazing par.
Garcia's aquatic adventure seemed to have turned his round around as well. He was 4 over through his first eight holes and was coming off a bogey on the par-3 17th. But after his par save, he carded three birdies and a bogey on his second nine for a respectable 72.
Here's his shot: