Lucas Glover finally got back into the winners circle with his victory at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. Lucas, who hadn’t won since capturing the US Open title in 2009, beat Jonathan Byrd on the first playoff hole after both players finished tied at 15 under. For Lucas it was a reaffirmation and a big shot of confidence as he heads to The Players Championship next week.
There were a lot of interesting notes from this tournament. First, Glover and Byrd know each other from earlier days – they were teammates at on the Clemson golf team. Maybe that’s why Glover fully expected Byrd to make birdie on the difficult 18th hole to force a playoff, and even predicted it while watching TV from inside the scorer’s tent. That’s the kind of mindset that gets you fired up for the playoff holes, rather than dreading them.
Glover also made a remark I thought was interesting. In his practice round he realized that his head was tilted too far back during his swing, and that was making it difficult for him to square up the club at impact. He made a slight adjustment, and the results proved him correct. The lesson there is that often a small change in set up or a minor swing adjustment can have a major impact on performance. We don’t always need to be looking for the big, dramatic swing change to produce dramatic results.
Another interesting tidbit was Glover’s play on the 18th hole. Glover yanked his drive left and was faced with a 176-yard shot to the hole on a very steep slope. As Glover got ready to address his shot his ball rolled 8 feet down the hill. Glover was very smart in that situation because he never grounded his club. The moving ball was deemed an act of nature, for which there is no penalty, and he got to hit his next shot from further down the slope where the ball finally came to rest. Had he grounded his club it would have been a penalty and he would have had to move his ball back to the original position.
But the really big lesson from this tournament came from Jonathan Byrd. On the 16th hole Byrd flared his drive right into the trees. Here’s where I felt Byrd exercised some real smarts that gave him a chance to win the tournament. There was a small opening through the trees that would have allowed Byrd to punch out and maybe get close to the green. But it would have been a low-percentage shot. Instead, he chipped out sideways.
Trying to make a miraculous shot is what I call the “Hero” shot. It’s tempting to try the hero shot when you are in trouble, because you naturally want to make up for a poor shot, thinking that will give you the best chance to save par. But attempting the hero shot from a trouble position is usually a recipe for disaster, and brings in the possibility of double-bogey or worse.
So what Byrd did was take his medicine and get his ball back out into the fairway where he had a good stance and lie. From the fairway he was in a position of strength, and that’s the time to try the hero shot. Which he did, knocking a 7-iron to four feet and making his putt for par. That hero shot kept him in the tournament and allowed him to make birdie on the 18th to catch Glover and force the playoff.
So remember Byrd’s lesson the next time you find trouble. Don’t try the hero shot until the odds are in your favor. Take your medicine and keep yourself in the game.
The Armchair Golf Pro writes about PGA Tour events. Like you he is watching TV from his comfy armchair, enjoying the competition and drama, but also observing lessons that can be used to play better golf.