Armchair Golf Pro: Woodland, Transitions, Slow Play

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.

LA QUINTA, CA - JANUARY 22:  Gary Woodland cel...

Getty Images via @daylife

There were a number of remarkable stats for Gary Woodland when he won the Transitions Championship in Palm Harbor, FL, with a 15-under total. He shot a 67 on the final day and didn’t make a par on the back nine until the 18th hole. That par turned out to be enough, though, as he beat Webb Simpson by one shot when Simpson bogeyed the final hole.

The most remarkable stat was Woodland’s putting. He made a Tiger-like 17-of-17 putts from inside 20 feet, including the clutch 10-footer on the final hole. That goes to show you the importance of the flat stick. When you only hit six fairways and 10 greens you can still post a good score … if you only have 23 putts.

Putting has been the story in a number of the last few tournaments, so the Armchair Golf Pro made a note to self to spend some quality time on the dance floor. But a couple more thoughts from the notebook deserve mention.

First, I like to see an athlete learn from their past performance. To me that means they are growing and improving. Woodland lost a playoff to Jhonatten Vegas a number of weeks back at the Bob Hope Classic. As an athlete it’s your choice to use those experiences as stumbling blocks or stepping stones. I was please to see Woodland learn from that experience. He’s clearly headed the right direction.

I liked Woodland’s response when Jimmy Roberts asked him what he learned from the Hope. A year and a half ago Woodland was out of golf for 9 months rehabbing a torn labrum muscle in his shoulder. So he took that time to sit down with his coach and look at all his stats. Then they put together a plan to attack his weaknesses. “I learned that I’m doing the right things.” he said.

I can sympathize. I’m only three months into my own rehab after rotator cuff surgery, and I’m putting together my own come-back plans. Starting with putting.

One other thing jumped out at me and it’s the kind of sign that says an athlete may be moving the wrong direction. Did you notice how long it took for Simpson to pull the trigger on his shots? By my count he took almost a dozen practice swings on the 17th tee, and it took him nearly three minutes to finally hit his shot. It was agonizing to watch.

One thing’s for sure – if you don’t know what to do, your swing won’t know what to do either. Sure enough Simpson made an indecisive swing, full of tension. He couldn’t release the club and it wound up going right into the bunker. It got even worse around the 18th green.

Sure there’s a lot on the line and a lot of tension. But at some point you’ve got to pick a target, decide what you are going to do, and step up and hit it. You’ve got to trust your skills and pick a strategy that will make you comfortable (see my newsletter article on Comfort). If Simpson doesn’t address the indecision and slow play he’s going to grind his way right off the Tour. Too much thinking and analyzing puts you in your analytic mind and pulls you out of your automatic mind.

You can’t “think” your way to a good shot. Great athletes know that great performances come from the heart. The next time you find yourself agonizing over a shot because of indecision or over-thinking, go with your instincts and Trust.