Playing safe is playing smart when there’s danger all around

It’s easy to find fault with Bryson DeChambeau’s stubborn decision on the 15th hole that led to a missed cut at the Memorial.

But maybe we all should be quiet – because we’ve all done something like that.

We’ve all tried to hit the ball through that opening in the trees that seems so wide. We’ve all dreamed of the miracle shot that will save par on this hole.

And if what happened to DeChambeau doesn’t cure us of this dreaded disease, nothing will.

We need to believe in the intelligence of the chip shot back to the fairway. We need to see the strength in that. We need to understand what it shows about our confidence in the rest of our game.

As I watched him pump two shots out of bounds and nearly hit a third in a water hazard, barely inbounds, I realized that on the many occasions when I’ve tried something equally stupid, I did it out of fear, not boldness.

Even though I would have had a short iron to the green if I chipped out, I insisted on the hero shot because I didn’t truly believe I could get my next shot on the green from a relatively short distance away.

Then, of course, I would put a dent in a tree or, even if I somehow threaded the needle through the branches, wind up in even more trouble … or in a hazard … or out of bounds.

Discretion isn’t just the better part of valor in our great game, it’s the secret to minimizing the damage. As good as they are, the pros use discretion all the time.

When the pin is tucked on the side of the green and short-siding yourself means a certain bogey or worse, they aim for the middle of the putting surface.

When the fairway is lined with trees or bunkers or water or out of bounds or all of the above, they hit a fairway wood or an iron off the tee.

And when they’re in trouble, their first look is to get out of trouble, not attempt the improbable and certainly not the impossible.

In other words, they play the percentages.

As my game has matured (I guess it had to grow up sometime), I have embraced this philosophy, particularly off the tee.

In my most recent round, I played one of the tightest courses I have ever seen. It was one be-careful hole after another.

On the day, I hit a wood off the tee just twice, and both times I regretted it. Neither ball could be found in the junk next to the fairway.

The irons were a different story. On the other dozen tee balls that weren’t on par-3s, I hit everything from a 3-iron to as low as an 8-iron off the tee – one of the holes was that short.

Out of those 12 shots, 10 of them were really good. I constantly put myself in good position, and my score on those holes reflected it.

It got me thinking back to the days when I had a 1-iron. I loved it. On many days, it was the most reliable club in my bag. Why on earth did I get rid of it? Does anyone make 1-irons anymore?

The point is that if you don’t have to hit a driver or even a fairway wood to have a good shot at the green, why on earth are you hitting it?

And if you don’t have a good chance to put the ball on the green or close to it from that miserable spot in the trees, why on earth aren’t you chipping out and taking your medicine?

If you still aren’t convinced, go shot by shot one more time with DeChambeau’s 10.

But don’t make fun of it. Learn from it.

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