Tips for salvaging a score when you don't have your best game
By T.J. Auclair
Jason Day's final round 2-under 69 to win the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow on Sunday wasn't indicative of how the 2015 PGA Champion actually played.
Day admitted afterward that despite the score that allowed him to win for the second time in 2018, he was struggling mightily with his swing.
It was a glaring example of what separates good golfers from being great: grit.
Day might not have had his best stuff on Sunday, but he dug deep to pull himself together and not only salvage a score but carded a great one.
And there's a lot we can all learn from that, so says 2013 PGA National Teacher of the Year Lou Guzzi.
"I remember reading a quote one time that was attributed to Bobby Jones," Guzzi said. "Someone asked him what it was he was thinking about when he plays. Jones replied, 'The last thing that worked.' It might sound funny, but it's a great way to look at things when you're struggling.
"To accentuate that, if you ever find yourself struggling, try to take yourself back to a round where you were at your absolute best in the facet of the game that's giving you trouble," Guzzi said. "Put yourself in that round and maybe some of those feelings will come back."
Here's what you can do to salvage a score if you don't have your best game:
1. When warming up, see if you can identify your miss.
"Sometimes you're missing it both ways and sometimes it's one way," Guzzi said. "If it's one way, that's good. You can play to that. If it's both ways, take extra caution on the course as to where you're leaving the ball and manage your short game. Give yourself more room left or right so you have a safer chip. Chipping and putting well are the things that will save your score."
2. Course management is so important.
"You have your amateurs who.. they're trying to control a golf ball," Guzzi said. "Then you throw in the management side of playing well. When they lose control of the ball, can they dig into the management side of the miss? Where's the best place to miss it? Most people don't process that part of the game and that's what the touring professionals are best at. Think through the hole. If you know where to miss, it's a whole lot easier to get up and down than missing on the wrong side where it's nearly impossible."
3. Never quit.
"In the case of Jason Day on Sunday and playing tournament golf, you just never, ever quit," Guzzi said. "You don't know what someone else is going to do. While you might feel like you're giving it away, or struggling, you never know what is going to happen with anybody else. Remember a few years ago when Ernie Els won the Open? That's because he focused on what he was doing and Adam Scott bogeyed the last four holes. You have to grind out every single shot. If a guy's hitting it all over the place and still comes up with a score, that's just grit."
Think of each shot, Guzzi said, as a "mini task."
Just because you just hit a poor shot doesn't mean the next one will be poor too.
"Play to your strengths when you're struggling," Guzzi said. "Maybe that means hitting irons off tees, or just hitting less than driver in general. Look at Henrik Stenson. He's fantastic with his 3-wood and uses it a whole lot more than his driver because that's something he has confidence in."
For better golfers, you might have 3-4 keys to your swing that allow you to maintain the same swing at all times. When you're struggling, you can lean on one of those keys to turn the tide.
"Go to a different swing thought," Guzzi said. "It will be the same swing, but it might feel a little different and get something to click so you can manage your game."