Blog
15
April
5 things we can learn from Bubba's Masters win
By: Ross Starkey

The Masters has been trending more difficult in its last few years. The Tournament Committee is keen on making it a tougher test year on year. Its main defence is its huge sloping greens and steep drop offs. This year a new element was added, conditions were noticeably firmer.

Jack Nicklaus alluded to hitting the middle of greens as the best way to approach Augusta National. So it was interesting to see how the winner, Bubba Watson, approached the course in these firm conditions and what we can learn from him.

1. The importance of not aiming for every pin.
Its easy to get carried away with going for every pin, regardless of the consequences. But often being disciplined and going for the centre of greens can let us get away with a bad shot and still leave a birdie putt. Bubba did on the 13th, a conservative approach left him with a straightforward two-putt for birdie.

Often we go for the smallest part of the green where the pin is located, only to mis-hit it into the bunker short, or push it right off the green, leaving tough up and downs for par? But if we aim for the bigger portion of the green we give ourselves a wider margin for error. Get it right and the birdie putt will still be makeable. Golfers are essentially greedy; we covet birdies more than our aversion to making bogey.

2. The importance of lag-putting.
Most golfers will hit some greens in regulation and better golfers will hit more than average golfers. Once on the putting surface everyone faces the same problem. How to get the ball in the hole. The best putting coach in the world Bob Rotella will tell you to try and hole everything, not Bubba.

Watson showed the importance of lag putting in his final round, not every putt is an uphill one, so when faced with a testing downhill putt or big breaks, we might be wise in targeting them as the two-putts they probably are.

3. Don't let your handicap define your golf.
Most pros don't have a score they are trying to achieve at the end of the round. Most amateurs - if pushed - do. Our handicaps can often be a burden, we aim to beat them or to reach them, or to protect them, instead of going out and shooting the best score we possibly can. Bubba Watson's third round, a 2-over 74 was exactly that, it might look like an anomaly amongst his other scores of 69, 68 and 69. But he shot a score that was good enough on the day to maintain a leading position come Sunday.

4. Missing the green on the 'right' side.
When faced with a long iron shot, we need to decide whether we can actually reach the green. When we decide we cannot, we put ourselves in the same position as the pros do after a poor drive puts them out of position. The scenario and thought process should be the same. “Where can I play this shot to give me the best possible chance of putting my next shot close?” Just trying to hit the ball as far as possible down the fairway won't always put you in the ideal position to save par.

Because of the severe sloping of the greens at Augusta we saw plenty of players opting to lay up to specific positions; distances they were comfortable with; and particular sides of the green that left them with the most straightforward chip. Did you notice most players at Augusta on Sunday playing to the right of the pin on the 17th?

5. Don't change your game.
Play the game that you are comfortable with and play one shot at a time, don't try to be a golfer you are not. If you suddenly find yourself leading, don't play negative, that's not the game that gave you the lead in the first place. Take Bubba's second shot to the 15th, he hit it through the trees, over water and avoided the bunker. Maybe he should have played safe, but he was comfortable with that shot so he played it as he would at any other time.