A Lesson Learned: Weigh your options, play to your strengths

Arjun Atwal
Photo: Getty Images
Arjun Atwal plays his second shot on the 18th hole, a gutsy play that leads to his first PGA Tour win.
Brett Gorney, PGA

Problem Area: Fundamentals
Series: Lesson Learned

Published: Monday, August 23, 2010 | 2:10 p.m.

The PGA Tour dished out another down to the wire, nail biting finish this weekend at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina. Arjun Atwal’s 7-foot, par saving putt on the 72nd hole secured his first PGA Tour win, a 2 year exemption on tour, and a maiden voyage to Augusta National next April.

However, Atwal’s win didn’t come without what many would call a ‘gusty play’ for his second shot to the 18th green on Sunday. That shot is the focus for our “Lessons Learned” this week.

With 192 yards, uphill, to a left side pin, guarded by bunkers, Arjun chose to play a hybrid from a downhill lie out of the left rough. Television announcers were initially barbequing him and throwing “Van de Veldeian” comments his way but Atwal’s decision proved to be the shot that set him up for his best chance to get up and down and win the tournament.

Knowing your options for the shot at hand is essential for getting the job done on the golf course. Considering his tricky lie, Arjun realistically had 4 different options for playing his second shot into the 18th green.

Option 1 – He could try to fly it 185 yards or so to the middle of the green and be left with 30-40 feet for birdie. If he hits it left or right he ends up in a bunker for a tough up and down.

Option 2 – He had 170 yards to the front edge of the fattest part of the green. This would have left him with a 65-75 foot uphill putt. Again if he hits it left or right he may end up in a bunker.

Option 3 - Lay up well short of the green and have to get up and down from 80-100 yards.

Option 4 – Hit a club that would go over the green knowing he would get free relief from the grandstands surrounding the green. A short shot potentially ends up on the front of the green or worst case, in a bunker.

He chose Option 4 and after the tournament while clutching the championship trophy, Atwal admitted that he was more confident with a chip shot from behind the green than he would have been with a long putt or a bunker shot.

One of the most common mistakes I see amateur golfers make is not reviewing their options for the shot at hand. I believe a big factor in failing to review your options is what I like to call, “Yardage Fixation.” With the growing use of GPS and laser range finders, amateur golfers get so fixated on their exact distance to the hole that they forget about everything else. In his decision, Atwal ultimately disregarded his yardage and blew it over the green.

Sure, we don’t get the luxury of free relief from the grandstands…but the bottom line is that it was an option for his shot at hand and it played into his strengths. He’s now a PGA Tour Champion. Lesson Learned – Know your options and chose the one that plays to your strengths.


Brett Gorney has been a PGA Teaching Professional for over twelve years. He has taught thousands of lessons to golfers of all abilities and has professional playing experience on both US and Asian tours.

He is a graduate of the PGA's Professional Golf Management Program at New Mexico State University and after opening and operating two indoor learning centers in Atlanta, Brett served as the PGA Golf Instructor at Discovery Bay Golf Club in Hong Kong, as well as on board the Star Princess Cruise Liner.

Several of his corporate clients have included CNN, Turner, American Express, IBM and Reuters. Brett currently teaches in Atlanta, Georgia and runs Atlanta Mobile Golf – a service brings video golf swing analysis and lessons to all types of businesses, organizations and events. You can find him on the web at www.brettgorney.com.

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