PGA Champion Justin Thomas added the Dell Technologies Championship at TPC Boston on Monday to the list of his Tour-leading five victories in 2016-17.
His par on the par-5 18th to close out the tournament was a microcosm of what he did so well throughout the week in order to close out another win -- his imagination and creativity around the greens.
On 18, Thomas missed the green just left in two with a 234-yard approach, leaving himself a daunting third shot from just under 50 feet. The reason the shot was "scary" was because of the large mound in the fringe just in front of Thomas.
Where most amateur players might think this was the kind of shot where a 60-degree wedge would be the prudent play, Thomas instead opted for a putter.
A putter? With that mound and the ball some 20 feet off the green?
"That's what you call experience," said PGA Professional Lou Guzzi, owner of the Lou Guzzi Golf Academy at Talamore Country Club in Ambler, Pa. and the 2013 PGA National Teacher of the Year. "For most in that situation, the first instinct is to play a lofted club over the mound. What those people don't consider is how -- since they're playing from below the green -- the trajectory of that shot is going to be lower, which means the ball is going to run out.For some reason, there's this mentality that exists where people think, 'I'm around the green, so I have to use a sand wedge or a lob wedge.' Forget that. It's one-dimensional thinking."
Hitting that lofted kind of shot from the position Thomas was in, Guzzi explained, would require an absolutely perfect strike.
Instead, he said, play to percentages. For Thomas, that meant pretty much taking the mound out of play by opting for his putter. Thomas managed to get his shot within 6 feet of the hole and then two-putted for the tournament-ending par and a three-shot win over Jordan Spieth.
Guzzi said he teaches his students to have that type of imagination around the greens -- he also likes to see 8 and 9 irons, or even hybrids used from spots like that.
"With an 8 or 9-iron, you can use the hill to your advantage," Guzzi said. "Hit the ball into the mound with one of those clubs, which will take a lot of the heat off it, and watch it roll out like the classic bump-and-run shots we see every year at the Open Championship."
Another aspect of being successful with shots like Thomas hit on Monday, is modifying your expectation for the shot, Guzzi said.
"People think when they're that close to the green, they have to hit it within that imaginary 3-foot circle or it's a bad shot," he said. "I encourage people to look at the situation and ask themselves, 'what would be considered a great shot from this particular spot?'"
If getting the ball to within 8 feet from the spot you're in would be considered a great shot, Guzzi said, you've already taken a lot of pressure off yourself.
"And if you end up 2-3 feet from the hole, that's not great, it's phenomenal," Guzzi said. "The same goes for lag putts. Not all lag putts and chips are created equal. If you're 60 feet away, then hitting it within 8 feet might be great."
While Thomas didn't miss the green in regulation in the example above, he was No. 1 in the field in scrambling for the week, converting on 20-of-21 chances to save par after missing a green in regulation.
As with anything, in order to have that type of success, it will require lots of practice.
"Practice, practice, practice," Guzzi said. "Try all types of shots with all kinds of clubs from those spots and work out how to play the shot that's going to give you the best chance to put the lowest number on your card."
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