A Lesson Learned: Dial it back to move forward

By John Reger, Jr., PGA
Published on

Golf can be a game of opposites...Go back to move forward!

Congrats to the new RBC Canadian Open Champion, Sean O'Hair who ended a long dry spell with his 4th career PGA TOUR title. Sean won on the first playoff hole over Kris Blanks by laying up with a pitching wedge and making a bogey 5 that was good enough for the win! Hats off to Adam Hadwin from British Columbia earning the honors of Low Canadian Professional. We could be looking at the future of Canadian golf for years to come. After being 5 over par for the day after 11 holes, Adam roared back into the top 10 with a string of 3 birdies to finish 2 under par for the championship and a fourth place tie.

One of the statistics that stood out about Sean O'Hair's victory was the low percentage of fairways hit in regulation. Sean hit less than 60% of the fairways off the tee, yet he did not have a double bogey during the tournament. Due to his poor driving accuracy, Sean engaged in a strategy of going back to move forward up the leaderboard.

Golf can sometimes be described as a game of opposites. If you swing easy, the ball goes farther than swinging harder. If you swing to the left, the ball goes to the right. Swing down to the ball, it usually goes up in the air. In keeping with this philosophy that golf is a game of opposites, if you back off the distance of your tee shots, you could be closer to hitting the green in regulation.

Sean O'Hair played his own version of a game of opposite as he started driving the ball with irons and fairway metals down the final stretch of holes. He backed off on the distance he was trying to play off the tee, and then had a better chance reaching the green in regulation

Sound crazy? Not if you are driving the ball poorly and want to end a long dry spell! The extremely narrow fairways, deep rough, and heavy forest surrounding each hole made it imperative for Sean to hit his tee shots in the fairway. A major tee shot blunder would result in a loss of a shot in the form of a short pitch out to the fairway. Therefore, he made sure that he was in the fairway in spite of giving up to 40 yards in distance. This gave him a better chance than the rest of the field to hit more greens in regulation resulting in critical pars and birdies. The professionals who faded down the stretch were constantly in the rough and trees and could not hit the miracle recovery shots they needed.

For the average golfer, this can be a tough decision to give up the chance to hit it long enough off the tee to reach the green in regulation. However, the payoff is a high percentage chance to be in the fairway which will set up the hole for a favorable score. It does take a great deal of mental discipline to think this way, even for the touring professionals. An example is the bogey that Andres Romero made on the 72nd hole to fall out of the playoff. His errant tee shot forced him to take a shot from the right rough ending up in the greenside bunker. After a disappointing bunker shot, he missed a long putt for par and elimination from the playoff.

So remember, backing off your distance off the tee with an iron or fairway metal will enable you to find the fairway and help you move forward with a better chance to reach the green in regulation.

John Reger, Jr., has been a member of the PGA since 1982 and has served in a variety of roles in the golf industry that includes golf professional, tournament announcer, golf course owner, tournament player, broadcaster, consultant, golf manufacturer, promoter, golf course developer and student of the game. John is the Founder and President of Briefcase Golf, Inc. based in Gainesville, Florida and co hosts a weekly syndicated radio show on ESPN stations across the state of Florida. For additional information visit