Try to miss in the right spot, and don’t panic when you miss in the wrong spot.
That was my biggest takeaway from the first three rounds of the Masters. Augusta National was challenging the pros in multiple ways, and watching them deal with those challenges was an education.
We tend to think that pros never miss. Surely they hit every shot perfect and make every putt.
That is so wrong.
They’re a million times better than us mere mortals, but our great game gets the best of them sometimes, too.
Maybe even a bigger difference between them and us is what they do when they look more like us.
Exhibit A is Scottie Scheffler’s miraculous bogey on the 18th hole Saturday after hitting his tee shot in a bush.
How many of us would have tried to hit the ball out of the bush? I’ll bet the number is embarrassingly high.
Scheffler, on the other hand, assessed his options carefully and determined that taking an unplayable lie and moving two club lengths to the right gave him the best chance to get back in the hole.
His sole focus, he said afterward, was to get his third shot, after the penalty, on the green.
And that’s where we just can’t relate.
He was 240 yards from the hole, steeply uphill, hitting off dirt, on a chilly day with that yawning front bunker between him and the hole.
And he hit a 3-iron.
Even the announcers couldn’t believe it as his lasered shot landed just short and left of the pin and bounded gently off the back edge. He saved bogey from there, which wasn’t as stupendous but certainly was impressive as well.
Most of us would have done something like this:
Shaken by hitting such a bad drive, we would have tried to hit it out of the bush … and whiffed.
Then we would have taken the unplayable and, still reeling, hit another wayward shot into the trees on the right.
For us, it’s a big number waiting to happen.
For Scheffler, it was actually a victory of sorts.
The other thing we saw with pro after pro was managing the golf course by knowing where the shot must go if it doesn’t go quite right.
The Augusta National greens are so slick, short-siding yourself is death. Time and again, the announcers emphasized taking the long route to the pin to make sure there was plenty of room for the chip shot if it was necessary.
The same is true with putts. They have to miss in the right spots there, too. Certain angles from above the hole create putts that are as close to impossible as a putt can be.
And that brings up another difference between them and us: Even if you’re a 10 handicap or better, you can’t necessarily miss in the right spot all the time. Heck, you’re probably just trying to make solid contact.
I know I have days when the last thing I’m worried about is getting a good angle to the green with my drive or leaving my approach in a good position. I’m just trying to hit the fairway and then get it somewhere near the green.
And it’s inevitable that we’ll occasionally hit a horrid shot into a bush or another miserable spot.
When it happens, do what Scottie Scheffler did and try to limit the damage. We can’t do what he did on his next swing, but we can be smart about how we play it.