On the Range at Southern Hills: How Leaders Get Ready
By Keith Stewart, PGA
I walked the range watching the leaders of the 104th PGA Championship prepare to take on the challenge of the third round. What caught my eye was the similarity of how each player warmed up. Upon realizing there were specific steps, I quickly wrote down what I saw to bring my own “a-ha” moment to all of you.
Step 1 – Warmup
To play your best, you must get the body started. Each player visits the trainer area and gets more mobile. You cannot possibly play your best without this very important step. Ever notice how much better you swing after three or four holes? It’s because the body has finally woken up. Play great from the beginning like Bubba Watson by saving time to stretch and get your muscles warm.
Step 2 - Range
For 20-25 minutes, they will hit shots on the range. They always start with their shorter clubs. From wedges up through the bag they get a feel for contact. Viktor Hovland not only changed clubs often, but targets as well. Most use a Trackman through this process. They know their baseline yardages. Having a launch monitor on hand relays information. Maybe it’s cold, or windy. You can accurately see the affect those elements have on the ball and adjust.
They always close their range session with the club they will hit their first shot with. Simulating that initial tee shot, builds confidence for that tense moment.
Step 3 – Scoring
From the range to the short game area each player likes to test the ground for scoring purposes. Take today as a perfect example, you have to get in the bunker. What will the sand play like? Hit a couple chips and pitches from the rough and the closely mown areas. Get a sense for the bounce on the green when the ball lands. Wind, rain the texture of then ground all change with every round.
Step 4 – Putting
The last stop on their travels is the practice putting green. Similar to the short game warm-up, they finish by assessing the green speed and break. Most will begin farther from the hole and work their way closer. Lag putting saves shots. You will see them hit a couple putts over a crest, and across a knoll getting a better understanding of break. It trains their eye and validates what they see.
They all close with short ones. Usually around the hole from about three feet. They pick a hole where the break changes as they go around. Uphill, downhill, sidehill practice from short range is the last step.
The average warmup time after the player leaves the physio room is 50 minutes. 25 minutes on the range, 15 minutes around the green and 10 minutes of putting. The model must work, because everyone I watched followed the same routine. If you are looking to play your best, try this preparation pattern.