WHO: Tommy Gainey
WHAT: A drive and a chip into the water
WHERE: 332-yard par-4 17th hole at TPC Scottsdale
WHEN: Final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open
At 17, Gainey was 17 under par and one shot behind Mark Wilson, his playing partner, and Jason Dufner, who had finished. The smart play for Gainey would have been to take a hybrid or an iron and put his tee shot into play. Doing that would’ve given him an easy little wedge approach and an almost sure chance for a birdie. I realize that Gainey was trying to win, but he also should’ve considered that he’s never won before and right now he needs to focus on keeping his Tour card. A second- or third-place finish would’ve almost surely done that, and then he could have played aggressively for the rest of the season.
Instead, Gainey lost his composure and got aggressive on the tee, hitting a driver. He drew the shot, and the ball caromed off a hazard stake and into the lake by the green. Still shaking with nerves, he chunked his chip so the ball landed on a hill by the green and rolled back into the water. Gainey walked off the green with a triple-bogey and ended up tied for eighth. Before the calamity, he was solo third, which would’ve been worth $414,800. Instead, Gainey earned $164,700, and now he still has a lot of work to do to retain his card.
In a pressure situation, pull whatever club you can hit to get the ball in play. That is the only option to consider. If you’re going to be aggressive, be aggressive with the shot into the green, not with the tee shot. When I’m under the gun, I do two things before approaching the ball. I take a very deep breath and slowly exhale. I also unhinge my jaw. Any time you grit your teeth, it brings tension to your body.
To practice on the range, use two tall poles (Toursticks are good) to make a gate about 10 feet in front of you. The poles should be three feet apart. Try to have your shots start off by flying between the poles. If you can get your ball started off on line, you have a very good chance of hitting it on line.
Golf Magazine Top 100 teacher Mike Adams is the director of instruction at the Broken Sound Club in Boca Raton, Florida.