In trouble off the tee? Don't make matters worse

Brian Harman
Getty Images
Brian Harman finds himself in heavy rough during Friday's second round at the Wyndham Championship.
By Mark Aumann

Problem Area: Hybrids and Irons
Series: Lesson Learned

Published: Monday, August 18, 2014 | 2:55 p.m.

As golf fans, we're accustomed to see professionals pull off "miracle shots" from almost impossible lies, like Bubba Watson's hooked wedge shot from the pine straw on the 10th hole at Augusta that led to his Masters win in 2012. Or Sergio Garcia's one-handed backhand shot from a tree in the 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational. 

It's easy to remember with amazement a shot like the one Phil Mickelson hit between the trees and over Rae's Creek on No. 13 in the 2010 Masters, and overlook the number of times when Mickelson's risky decisions haven't paid off.

And when you're faced with a shot that's going to take all your talent -- and a lot of luck -- to pull off, you need to consider the risks versus the rewards, particularly when compounding the problem could lead to a huge number on the scorecard.

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There's a time to take a chance, and a time to play it safe. At the Wyndham Championship on Sunday, both third-round leader Nick Watney and eventual winner Camilo Villegas wound up hitting into Sedgefield Country Club's thick rough. Both golfers could have opted for a low-percentage go-for-the-green shot. Instead, they both decided to "take their medicine" and put the ball back into the fairway. In both cases, Watney and Villegas limited the damage by laying up.

Faced with a similar situation, make sure you weigh the risks and the rewards. If your ball is in deep rough and sitting down, what are the odds that you can advance the ball all the way to the green without getting yourself in more serious trouble? 

Chad Parker, director of golf at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, offers this advice.

"You’ve already made one mistake and hit it in the rough," Parker said. "Don’t compound it by not getting yourself back into position."

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Sometimes the smart play is the safest play, Parker said. And that may be working to get your ball back into the fairway and limiting the damage. So how do you go about that, especially in heavy rough?

"Hitting from thick rough can be very tricky," Parker said. "The most common fault I see with most amateurs is that they try and hit too much club. If the ball is sitting down, conditions require more loft to get the ball out. I recommend that the player choke down on the club a bit and hit the shot with the intent of getting the ball back into play."

Pulling off a miracle shot makes for a great story in the clubhouse after the round. But playing it smart -- and knowing the risks and rewards involved -- will make for a better-looking scorecard over the long haul. 



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