As you know, I’m consistently writing about using your head and short range skills to play golf, rather than always relying on seeing how far you can hit it off the tee. Any golfer can learn to hit accurate short range shots. Solid shots from inside 100-130 yards are within anyone’s grasp, but few will ever learn how to hit massive drives in the fairway. Playing courses smart, leaving yourself quality scoring shots from the fairway, makes this game much, much easier to master. So does Zach Johnson read “The Wedge Guy”?
In this morning’s golf news I read a short story on Zach’s good first day at Royal Lytham yesterday. I really like the way Zach plays golf, relying on his skills and accuracy to take golf courses apart. He has to, because he’s 158th in driving distance. By the way, world #1 Luke Donald is even further back at 183rd.
The story pointed out that he seemed to be applying his strategy from the 2007 Masters, where he decided going in that he wasn’t going to try to hit any of the par 5 holes in two, rather choosing to lay up to wedge range and taking his chances at birdies from there. The result of his tactic? He played the par fives better than anyone in the field and on that Sunday afternoon was wearing the famed green jacket.
Back to yesterday at The Open Championship (we Americans are the only ones who seem to call it the “British Open”), Zach opened with a 65. What the story in Golf World’s online edition pointed out is that he chose to lay up on the short 336-yard 16th hole, while playing companions Ernie Els and Darren Clarke tried to drive the green. Zach then hits a wedge to three feet and makes birdie. That kind of smart play might just get him a Claret Jug to go along with his green jacket.
What amazes me is why tour professionals don’t play this way more often? Most of them seem to reach for the driver instinctively on each tee, particularly on the shorter holes that are tempting them to try to drive the green. The PGA Tour keeps statistics on nearly everything, but I can’t find one for “bogeys or worse on ‘drivable’ par 4s”. I would bet the big hitters lead that category if there was one.
What I can find are two statistics that I think are rather meaningful. On par-5 scoring average, the tour leader is Bubba Watson at 4.46 strokes. But in third place is Zach Johnson at 4.53. In other words, he gives up almost nothing in scoring on par fives to a guy that is on average outdriving him by 35 yards!
I’m just sayin’ . . . .