Artistry on the course can lead to a brush with success

As much as I appreciate consistency on the golf course, I find that I am drawn to artistry and creativity even more.

That’s why Max Homa’s shot in the playoff at Riviera will stick with me for a long time.

I gasped when I saw where his drive on the 10th hole had ended up: It was right against a tree, seemingly with no chance for a backswing that would send it toward the hole.

His opponent, Tony Finau, had left his drive on the wonderful little par-4 just to the left of the green. He seemed certain to make 4 and had a good shot at a 3.

Homa, on the other hand, seemed certain to have to chip away from the green to a position in front, try to get up and down for par and hope that Finau didn’t make a birdie.

“It’s over,” I thought.

But this is where creativity took over – and once again I gasped.

Homa saw a way to get his ball on the green. He couldn’t hit it at the hole, but he at least could put it below the hole with a reasonable shot at birdie.

Though his stance was pointing toward the front of the green, he severely hooded the club so that the ball went straight left.

I couldn’t believe my eyes as I watched it skitter toward the green and stop pin high. You’ll never see a prettier trouble shot.

Alas, he didn’t make the putt, but Finau babied his downhiller and missed as well. And when Finau hit his tee shot into a bunker on the next hole, a par-3, it indeed was over. Homa knocked it on the green and made a par to win.

It all came down to that amazing chip shot. When Homa thinks of that victory, that’s the shot he’ll remember most.

That’s how it is with our great game.

Sure, we revel in hitting a perfect drive, a perfect 7-iron and a perfect putt for a perfectly wonderful birdie.

But as we’re reviewing the highlights and lowlights of a round, we tend to celebrate the successful shots from trouble even more.

I had a recent round where I played really well. I was consistent. I made a lot of good pars.

But the best one of all was thanks to a trouble shot.

I was in the trees to the left of the fairway. I didn’t have much – there was a decent-size opening ahead of me, but the green has a huge bunker on the left. My only play was to try to hit the ball through the bunker and get it to stop on the green.

I have made that shot many times. I have a lot of confidence in my ability to execute it. But that doesn’t it make it any less fun or memorable when I pull it off.

And pull it off is exactly what I did. I kept it low to get it through the trees with enough velocity to hurry into the bunker, climb up the face and pop onto the green.

It still was about 30 feet from the pin, but I managed to coax the putt to gimme range for a lovely par.

There are times when it’s not worth the risk, of course. Yes, I might have banged that shot off a tree and made double bogey or worse. But a calculated risk sometimes adds up to a great memory.

Just ask Max Homa.

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