How a smart second shot pays off.
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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

At 667 yards, the 16th at Firestone C.C.'s South Course, home to the Tour's WGC–Bridgestone Invitational each August, isn't a reachable par 5. "The Monster" surrendered but one eagle at the 2016 event and just one birdie for every three bogeys. Tough holes like this (the second-hardest par 5 on Tour last year) demand brains, not brawn. Plotting a smart second shot is your best bet. But be careful. Not all layups are alike. Here's how to position yourself for an easy approach—and a memorable birdie.

1. LAY IT BACK

Most weekend players think hitting a second shot as near as possible to the green is the way to make a par or birdie. Not so fast. If you get too close, you may have to pull off a specialty shot for your third—say, a tricky flop or a half-wedge. When hitting your second shot, leave yourself a distance that lets you take a full swing with a wedge for your third. Stock shots are easier to execute than specialty ones.

2. HIT UPHILL

Before laying up, determine the predominant tilt of the green (either to the left, right or front) and play to that side of the layup zone. Now you can hit into the slope on your third, not across it, and your ball won't roll away from the pin after it lands. And if you don't fly it too far, you'll have an uphill putt.

3. FIND THE FLATS

Even the most tricked-up par 5s usually have a flat spot short of the green. Use that safe haven when you can't get home in two. Simple lies make for easier approach shots. Even if the flat spot leaves you with a shot from an awkward distance, it's a better option than hitting a standard shot while off-balance or with a hanging lie.

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