A Lesson Learned: The most important shot of a tournament? The next one you're going to hit.

Tiger Woods
Photo: Getty Images
Tiger Woods could have contended for The Barclays save for one bad swing on his opening tee shot Saturday.
John Crumbley, PGA

Problem Area: Fundamentals
Series: Lesson Learned

Published: Sunday, August 29, 2010 | 9:05 p.m.

There will be a great deal of attention focused on Martin Laird’s three putt on the 72nd hole, especially that lag putt that ran 7 feet past the hole, or the second putt that never touched the cup. Both strokes were obviously critical, as it lead to a devastating bogey and subsequent loss in the playoff for Laird.

But what about that swing on the first hole on Saturday, could that have determined the outcome of this tournament? No, not one from either Laird or eventual champion Matt Kuchar, I’m talking about Tiger Woods.

Tiger, as most people know, got off to a tremendous start at this year’s Barclay’s, and even with a lackluster second round, was right in the mix heading into the weekend. And then, playing it “safe” on the fairly easy straight away opening hole, he duck hooked a shot OB left and walked off the first hole with a horrific triple-bogey seven. Had he birdied that hole like he did in two of his four rounds, or even parred it like he did in the second round, he would have been right in the mix.

Even more, had he not had to spend so much energy trying to erase the damage of the triple bogey and instead, been able to focus on contending for the lead, I personally feel he had a great chance to run away with the tournament. And that leads us to the subject of this week’s “A Lesson Learned.”

Every shot counts and you have to focus on your first shot like it’s the most important shot in the world, and maintain that focus for the entire round.

Did you know that Tiger Woods led the field in driving accuracy this week? It’s true. But that one shot from the tee (a “safe” three-wood ironicially) was what might have cost him the entire tournament.

Miguel Angel Jimenez missed a five-inch putt, five inches!, late in the final round of the Johnnie Walker Classic this past Sunday, effectively costing him a shot at the win.

In tournament golf, there are no “gimmes”, and every shot counts the same as that last putt on the last day. Laird’s three putt on 18 was obviously heartbreaking for him, but he made a great birdie putt on the hole before to put him in the lead. How many times, at the end of a round, did you look back over your score and think about that one loose swing which led to a double, or the one three putt that you never should have had.

I tell my students constantly that to play your best golf, you have to be ready to play from the first hole. Too many students will try to experiment or “ease” into the round. That’s fine for casual play, but if you care about your score, never let up on your concentration.

I feel bad for Martin Laird but he has a ton of talent, he’ll be back in contention soon. And yes, so will Tiger Woods. But both showed great examples this past week of what can happen when your focus slips for even one shot. As you can see, it’s often not pretty. We're hoping they concentrate better next time – and you should too in order to play your best golf.


John Crumbley is the Director of Golf at Mystery Valley Golf Club in Lithonia, GA.

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