Better Chipping

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Todd Anderson, PGA

Problem Area: Short Game
Series: Instruction Feature

Published: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 | 3:17 p.m.

We've all had days when the swing felt perfect and our scores reflected that confidence. But unfortunately, we all know the days where the swing feels out of sorts and the scorecard reflects that as well. Wouldn't it be great if we could battle through the tough days and still post some good numbers? Top PGA Professional Todd Anderson tells us -- using Phil Mickelson's victory at THE PLAYERS as evidence -- that we can still make the most of those days by working on our short game skills.

There's no question that winning at such a demanding and high-profile tournament like THE PLAYERS Championship is one of the great tests in golf. This tournament consistently attracts one of, if not the, best fields of the season -- and it's played on one of the TOUR's toughest layouts. Congratulations to Phil Mickelson, who has shown that even the best players in the world can benefit from some fine-tuning as his newly ravamped swing has now led to two third-place ties and a very impressive victory.

The course renovations and the new date have changed the character of The PLAYERS course at TPC Sawgrass. The new sub-air system has given The TOUR control of the course conditions. The firm fairways have made hitting fairways more difficult, and hitting the already small greens can be almost impossible from the bermuda rough. Second, the new greens are much firmer, making it more difficult for the ball to hold. Even well-struck iron shots from the fairway are rolling off the greens, resulting in a variety of short-game situations. And that was the key this week.

A close look at Mickelson's statistics through the week show something astounding. Through two rounds of golf, Mickelson's swing was not quite in synch. He was missing fairways with alarming regularity and missing many greens in regulation. In fact, during the critical second round, Mickelson hit only a third of the greens in regulation. Usually, a statistic like that dooms a player's chance of winning a title.

But the Lesson Learned from THE PLAYERS is that a strong short game can bail out a lot of other weaknesses in your golf. Despite such lackluster stats through the first two rounds, Mickelson held the 36-hole lead. How? Because he was able to save par from a variety of difficult positions from off the green.

This can only help you in your game as well. There will be days when your swing might be a little off. That doesn't mean you can't grind out a good score. Just remember, the ability to hit a variety of shots around the green will make all your shot selections a little easier.

And having a strong short game is not overly complicated. The key to success is controlling the distance, trajectory, and roll on short game shots. Whether it is a high flop shot or a low bump and run, the procedure is the same.

Divide the shot into two parts: air time and ground time. Pick the club and trajectory (air time) that will allow the ball to land on the spot and have the correct amount of roll to end up close to the hole.

Try this drill: Place a bag tag on the green where you want the ball to land. Then pick the club, the set up, and the motion and hit some shots that will produce the desired distance, trajectory, and roll to get the ball close to the hole. Work on different types of shots to get comfortable with different situations.

Of course, these shots take practice and discipline. But the payoff is huge. Phil Mickelson won THE PLAYERS Championship on Sunday because he controlled his golf game so well. But he would never have been in the position to win if not for his phenomenal short game. It might not win you the TOUR's signature event, but it will improve your golf and make the game more enjoyable.

Best of luck.

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