Steve Stricker showed some amazing bunker save skills this past week and that earned him his first Memorial Tournament win.
Most analysts and writers will cite his great up and downs from bunkers on the 16th and 17th holes as keys to his victory. They were definitely clutch and needed, but both were results of great putts more than great bunker shots.
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However, Stricker's sand save on the treacherous 12th hole was not only a spectacular shot which proved critical to his win, but even more showed some real imagniation and golf savvy that we could all learn from.
To set the scene, Stricker had built a four-shot lead as he blistered the front nine (again) on Sunday with an opening 30. Then, with a still comfortable lead, he put his tee shot on the famous par 3 12th hole into the back bunker, with an awkward stance in the back of the bunker with a green that sloped away from him and water just beyond the pin.
I've seen so many golfers try to add extra loft or spin to their bunker shot in this case and more than half end up knocking this shot into the water behind the pin. It's very true.
But Stricker took the water virtually out of play by aiming way left into the rough - knowing his ball would glide through the trampled grass and then start trickling on the green. He executed it just as he wanted to, though I'm not sure he knew it was going to end up at a tap-in par distance.
But my thought when seeing this wasn't the execution of the shot (which was perfect), it was more the imagination to even attempt it. Even if the shot had not cleared the rough, or barely trickled on, it virtually assured no worse than bogey. If the ball finds the water, you're looking at double or worse. Considering he won by one shot, good thing he made par.
But how often do YOU look to the rough when trying to get out of a bunker? Could it actually be the right choice? Absolutely it could, if it keeps further trouble out of the equation. This week's lesson learned is simple: Look at every option and don't get in more trouble by trying to be spectacular out of existing trouble.
You and your score will be better for it.
Emily Brown is a PGA Professional at NCR Country Club in Kettering, Ohio. Brown graduated from Methodist University from the PGA/PGM Program in 2009.