|We all know how Tiger struggles with the driver off the tee, but apart from this area of his game, he is flawless. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)|
If your goal is to shoot lower scores, then course management should be at the top of your list, as it's the primary reason Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer of all time.
As I watched the first round of the this year's PGA Championship, it was plain to see why Tiger is so much better than Phil Mickelson at managing his way around a golf course. Most every golf analyst believes Phil has more raw talent than Tiger, but all agree that Tiger has the superior mindset it takes to be the best.
We all know how Tiger struggles with the driver off the tee, but what most golfers do not realize is that, apart from this area of his game, he is flawless. During the first round of this year's PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club, Phil continually put himself in position to make bogeys, missing greens on the short side or missing fairways, leaving him out of position for shots into the greens. We all agree Phil has the best short game on tour, but he has to have the best short game, because he continually puts himself in a position where miracle shots are required to save par.
Even when Tiger is playing badly he very rarely makes his round look difficult. Phil, on the other hand, makes every round look hard. Why? Because he doesn't use his head out there, he uses his heart. Strategy is a major part of golf, regardless of your skill level, and improving how you think your way around the course is the easiest way to improve your score.
Here are a few thoughts you should keep in the forefront of your mind during a round of golf.
1. Trying to hit a shot that requires perfect execution is usually the recipe for trouble, particularly if you don't get to practice every day. Play shots you know you can handle.
2. Allow for some margin of error; off the tee take the safe route, into the green play away from trouble. Hitting more fairways and greens leads to confidence that creates better swings.
3. Use the proper club. You don't always have to hit a driver off the tee; on short par 4s, try teeing off with a fairway wood, hybrid or long iron. Into greens, if trouble is in front, use a longer iron and play to the back (and vice-versa if the trouble is over the green).
4. Finally, be realistic when it comes to your capabilities. If given the choice to "go for it" or play it safe, most golfers will mistakenly go for it. Avoid this, and learn that "playing within yourself" is the first step toward shooting lower scores.
November 12, 2009
Les Miller was a longtime Golf Writers of America member who covered golf instruction for several newspapers and golf publications. His many years of experience as a golf professional, director of product development and tour relations for several major golf companies gave him a unique background and ability to help golfers increase their enjoyment of the game.