Prepare Like PGA Champions Do at the WM Phoenix Open
Short game was a focus for PGA Champions Collin Morikawa (left) and Justin Thomas prior to the WM Phoenix Open (Getty Images).
I live across the street from the course, so I walked over for a practice round to get a taste of how some of the best in the world prepare for the PGA Tour’s first designated event.
Don’t Forget About Your Short Game
Morikawa rolled these three-footers for a while before hitting the range to warm up for his practice round. I followed him once he teed off with Xander Schauffele, Beau Hossler and David Lipsky, and I noticed he was continuing with an emphasis on short game. He chipped from all sorts of angles on No. 3 green, and was paying close attention to how the ball was moving and reacting.
The takeaway? It’s easy to pound balls on the range and work on your ball-striking, but around the greens is what really matters in the end. Putting is what puts the ball in the hole, and chipping is what helps you clean up your score.
Practice the Hard Shots
At first, Thomas was chipping while his dad and PGA Coach Mike Thomas, who was filming his form. Every few shots, Mike would pull Justin aside to watch his own chipping, while giving him some pointers. Eventually they moved to the bunker, where I watched Justin take at least 20 swings of the same bunker shot. Mike would continue to film every once in a while, and once or twice, Justin was pulled over to watch his form.
Thomas continued to practice from the sand on the golf course, too. I watched him hit a few from a fairway bunker on 18, which has a landing area for tee shots that is extremely narrow, with bunkers on each side. The 18th’s fairway bunker seemed like the place to be, because Morikawa made his way to that same exact spot during his practice round.
Golf is a lot easier from the fairway, and when you practice the shots that occur when you do not hit the fairway. Next time you’re out practicing, drop some balls in the heavy rough, bunker, pine straw, a divot — you name it. Trying these shots will give you less of a shock factor when your ball makes its way out of the short grass.
If the PGA Champions do it, so should you.