If you are like everyone else who loves golf, you were probably in front of the TV for the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. It’s pretty tough not to watch when two of the best players ever tee it up together and are in the hunt. Tiger Woods & Phil Mickelson move the needle when it comes to ratings, and this event was no different. Phil’s excellent closing 64 was impressive, and even more so when you consider he stomped Tiger by 11 shots on Sunday. But who would win the golf tournament was only part of the storyline that week.
First, let’s look at Phil Mickelson. Going into the week he had been struggling with his game, and admittedly had not gotten the results out of his game he had been expecting. He even called in his swing coach, Butch Harmon, at the previous tournament to get a tune-up because he had been so unhappy with his ball striking. But Phil’s closing 64 showed us a couple of things. First, a little hard work and a small boost of confidence is all we need sometimes to make that small jump from struggling to playing well. The other lesson we learned is that putting is the great equalizer – for all of the swing issues Phil had and how much it was talked about on the telecast, what was most important was that he didn’t miss a putt inside of 10 feet on Sunday. Then, on top of that, his speed was so good that he made a few “bombs” outside of the normal range. The lesson here: hitting the ball well is fun and important, but never let yourself forget how important the short game is to really breaking through your personal golf hurdles.
As for Tiger, we learned a couple of interesting lessons from his round of 75. First, as we have noted, the putter can make or break your round, and it broke Tiger’s round with three misses inside of 10 feet that lead to 3 straight bogeys. This put Tiger in a position where he had to press to catch up, and that is never a good spot to be in on the golf course. That leads us to our other lesson: never put yourself in a position where you have to play someone else’s game on the golf course. Tiger’s misses on the greens forced his hand, and in his case, put pressure on a golf swing that is still a work in progress. Misses began to happen because of it and his chances of winning were lost. So that is the lesson here for everyone to remember: it’s important to know your strengths and stick to what works for you. Anytime you have to do something you haven’t practiced or are not comfortable with on the golf course you are asking for trouble. Tiger seems to be getting closer to winning again, but until he can make those short putts and dictate what the rest of the field has to do by executing his game plan, the result from Pebble Beach will continue to be the norm.