Golf Buzz

May 15, 2017 - 8:01am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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tpc sawgrass
USA Today Sports Images
There are few holes in golf as intimidating as the par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass. But with the right training and mindset, you can make holes like that play a lot easier than they look.

South Korea's Si Woo Kim, 21, became the youngest winner in Players Championship history on Sunday.

As with any Players Championship week, much of the talk is centered around one specific hole at TPC Sawgrass -- the iconic, par-3 17th.

The hole measures no more than 130 yards when it's playing its longest -- a pitching wedge for most guys.

But, when you factor in the wind and the fact that you're hitting the ball to a small, island green, that's where it can get extra intimidating.

RELATED: Phil Mickelson hits 'rip draw' on 17 to near perfection | Players Championship results

Designer Pete Dye is known for that kind of thing. He's an evil genius. He designs his courses so that even the best players in the world are never comfortable.

So how do you conquer a hole as intimidating as 17 at Sawgrass so not to ruin an otherwise great round?

PGA Professional Rob Labritz, Director of Golf at GlenArbor in Bedford Hills, N.Y., and recent winner of his third consecutive Westchester PGA Championship earlier this month, has the answer.

"When you look at a hole like No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass, the average golfer sees the trouble," Labritz said. "The pro is focused on where he or she wants to land the ball. It's a mindset and all about how you train yourself. As you get more control over the ball, you can pinpoint it like a sniper. On a hole like that, you want to be thinking 'aim small, miss small.'"

Being able to apply that philosophy is a trained skill, Labritz said.

"It's not as easy as just going out there and doing it," he told PGA.com. "It's about reps and training your mind to trick your brain. It's about commitment -- standing up to the shot, picking a target, having done your due diligence on the yardage and outside factors like wind, and then forgetting about everything else and hitting your target."

Thankfully for most of us, playing a tee shot from the 17th tee at TPC Sawgrass isn't going to be the same as it is in the final round of a Players Championship with the pressure of contending and all the crowds.

And that's a good thing, Labritz said, because it's much easier to train yourself when there isn't a ton of pressure to start out.

If you're like a lot of golfers, an intimidating hole on a golf course you're playing might be something you start thinking about before even arriving at the course.

For stronger players, Labritz said, you don't think about what's going on in the future -- just the task at hand, the one in the present.

"Don't let your brain drift there," he said. "Stay with the hole you're on and the shot you're on. Totally stay in the present. It's a skill you've got to learn. You can't all of the sudden say, 'I'm only going to focus on the shot I'm on.' You have to trick your brain. It takes time and effort, just like learning how to hit a high draw."

As is the case with anything in life, confidence goes a long way.

"If you're thinking about water, you're probably going to hit it there," Labritz said. "If you're thinking solely about a spot on the green you want to hit it to, chances are you're going to hit it there. Have a 'sniper mentality.' Aim small, miss small." 

May 14, 2017 - 4:53pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Rafa Cabrera Bello
@PGATOUR on Twitter
Rafa Cabrera Bello's "2" on the par-5 16th hole at TPC Sawgrass on Sunday was the first on that hole in Players Championship history.

Rafa Cabrello Bello hit a golf shot he'll never forget on Sunday.

Playing the par-5 16th hole at TPC Sawgrass in the final round of the Players Championship, the Spaniard holes his second shot from 181 yards for an albatross.

It was the first "2" on the 16th hole in tournament history. It was the third albatross in tournament history. Hunter Mahan (hole 11) and Peter Lonard (hole 2) each made one in 2007.

Here's a look at the thing of beauty:

That shot immediately moved Cabrera Bello from 2 under to 5 under.

What a shot.

Also awesome?

Cabrera Bello's celebration where he accidentally threw his club in the water:

 

Yuta Ikeda
@PGATOUR on Twitter
The tee shot that Yuta Ikeda hit on the par-3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass on Sunday needs to be seen to be believed.

Just when you think you've see it all on the par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass, along comes Yuta Ikeda.

Playing just 129 yards on Sunday, Ikeda hit a beauty. However, it took a big bounce on the firm green and looked doomed for the drink.

Incredibly, the ball hit the railroad tie on the back side of the green and somehow -- instead of bouncing into the water -- bounced back onto the green.

Check it out here:

With that tremendous good fortune, Ikeda was left with a 21-footer for birdie.

He would two-putt for par and probably laughed all the way to the 18th tee. 

May 14, 2017 - 4:12pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Louis Oosthuizen
@PGATOUR on Twitter
Louis Oosthuizen drained a long eagle putt at the par-5 11th hole Sunday to get back near the top of the leaderboard in the final round of the Players Championship.

Just when it looked as if 2010 Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen was beginning to slip away in the final round of the Players Championship on Sunday, he went ahead and nailed a long eagle putt at the par-5 11th to soar back into contention:

Oosthuizen's putt measured 34 feet, 5 inches. It got him back to even par for the day, 8 under for the tournament and two back of leader Si Woo Kim.

May 14, 2017 - 3:36pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Rory McIlroy
@PGATOUR on Twitter
It hasn't been the best week on the course at TPC Sawgrass for Rory McIlroy -- back pain included -- but he made a brilliant par at the par-4 14th on Sunday.

In his first start as a married man, Rory McIlroy has shown signs of rust -- and has admitted to playing through an ailing back -- at the Players Championship.

The former world No. 1, who will undergo a MRI on Monday back in Belfast, made the cut at TPC Sawgrass and was battling to salvage something on Sunday.

That included this sweet chip-in for par at the par-4 14th hole:

That was from just shy of 27 feet. 

Ian Poulter
@PGATOUR on Twitter
Facing a difficult par putt on the ninth hole at TPC Sawgrass on Sunday, Ian Poulter somehow knocked it in to extend his bogey-free streak at the Players Championship to 37 holes.

When Ian Poulter reached the par-5 ninth hole at TPC Sawgrass in the final round of the Players Championship on Sunday, he had gone 36 consecutive holes without a bogey... an incredible feat on the difficult Peter Dye course.

Typically with Tour pros, you'd think they'd escape with a par on a par 5 at worst.

But Poulter's third shot wasn't ideal from 109 yards out and his 35-foot putt for birdie only made it about halfway to the hole.

He was left with this tricky 17 1/2-footer for par:

What a save. Make that 37 straight holes without a bogey. At 8 under, Poulter was just one shot off the lead at the turn.

His putter right now is looking like the one Americans are used to seeing in the Ryder Cup.