Why Every Golfer Makes This Mistake – Even PGA Tour Players

Hitting a hero always makes you the villain.

Getty Images

Welcome to Play Smart, the game improvement column that drops every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from game improvement editor Luke Kerr-Dineen (Who you can follow on Twitter here).

Standing on a golf ball on the 72nd hole in the Travelers Championship on Sunday, Sahith Thigala, who was five years old on the day, decided to support himself. He tried to screw his ball to the lip in front of him just feet away, hoping to find the leading edge of the green 100 yards away.

“We were just trying to figure out the best way to do 4 was and try to force Xander [Schauffele] Then he said.

Thigala said there is more room for error than it appears on TV. She would have given him a great shot of a bird’s-eye look; A piece that would leave his shot in the field. There was only one thing he couldn’t do: razor. And with the pressure to cook, that’s exactly what he did.

“Never in a million years did I think I would allow myself to get rid of it,” he said.

Playing golf under pressure tends to do that to people. His subsequent double ghost sent the cup into Xander Schauffele’s hand.

When you’re a PGA Tour player, able to do amazing things with a golf ball – and in Theegala’s case, five to 17 holes – I’m going to cut you some slack. Theegala chose to support himself, and you have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

But on the surface, it seemed like a dubious play at least to him, which for a player of its quality, it’s the kind of shot the rest of us should avoid at all costs.

Here’s why.

Double the money your way out of trouble

Nick Faldo, on the broadcast, questioned Theegala’s choice to knock the driver off a tee at 18. There’s no doubt in my mind that it was a serious criticism. Everything about Peak Faldo would suggest that he would have put something conservative in the middle of the fairway and had his opponent hit a golf ball to beat him. Theegala’s problem was that he didn’t have 3 timbers in the bag, which would have been the obvious choice for non-drivers.

And besides, most guys were hitting the driver in this hole on Sunday, including eventual winner Shaveli. Theegala had each of the previous three days, and imagined the shot on Sunday as well.

“It was just a perfect ball for me. Just a cut high up on the tree. I’ve hit that a thousand times this year. I have to trust it, it’s bread and butter. It’s a big swing on it, and I hit it right in the middle,” said Tegala. Adrenaline, face squaring a little sooner than usual. Just didn’t cut it.”

It happens, and it doesn’t mean it was a bad call. But questions begin to arise in the next shot.

Theegala felt that trying to push his ball as close to the green as possible was his best chance to put pressure on Xander. That may be true, but it was also an awkward shot that he needs to hit under pressure. This obviously brought with it a non-zero chance of an unexpected error, which is exactly what we’ve seen happen.

What if Theegala had just opened his face wide, forgotten the green, and played this shot like the green vault? His command left 124 yards from the green. He hits the ball back into the fairway, anywhere from the sides completely diagonally forward, putting it somewhere in the yellow oval below.

Cutting his ball to about 100 yards would have given Theegala an 85 percent chance of equal or stealth.

PGA Tour

Based on the Shotlink data you can see above, that yellow circle includes shots from 96 to 116 yards hit on Sunday. There were 14 of them in total, and here’s how the logging of all of them crashed:

7 pars (blue)

5 birds (red)

2 ghost (black)

It only took a simple shot to get Theegala in this position. Once he did, the scoring data from today suggests that he would have effectively gotten the 50% chance of getting off in three shots from here and a 35% chance of falling in half. Given Theegala’s proximity stats of the season so far, a shot from 96 to 100 yards would likely leave him around 18 feet to keep equality – Throwing hits he makes 15 percent of the time. Perhaps a little more in this case, because it was one Top 10 players on the field during the final round.

Anyway, that’s what gives you the drop and swing: an elimination chance to save, and an 85 percent chance of nothing worse than stealing. Does Xander Birdie 18 still realize he needs it in order to win – or at least secure a place in a playoff game? This is an alternate reality that we will never know. Instead, it was the result of Theegala’s more ambitious attempt to leave him of the same height in a bogey position, which ran wildly, and a double bogey had him split the runner-up check.

Lesson: Don’t hit the hero

Again, this isn’t for kicking a guy during a fall – I was honestly rooting for Theegala on Sunday, and I’ll be more than that next time he finds himself in a feud.

This Sunday shot was just a wonderful reminder of how golf forces us to override our basic human instinct of wanting to do more when we feel like our backs are against the wall. To recover from a bad or unlucky shot with a better or more fortunate next shot. In fact, it is best to think of such moments as a speeding ticket. Pay your ticket and continue on your way.

When you find yourself facing a chance to hit a hero shot, do yourself a favor and don’t do it. Take the simplest and most boring route back to your position and continue on your way. There may be no glory in going the boring road, but there will be a cup waiting for you at the end of it.

Look Care Denin

Golf.com Contributor

Luke Kerr-Dineen is Game Improvement Editor for GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. In his role, he oversees game improvement content for the brand that includes Help, Equipment, and Health & Fitness across all multimedia platforms at GOLF.

An alumnus of the International Junior Golf Academy and University of South Carolina – Beaufort golf team, where he helped them get to #1 in the NAIA National Rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. . His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek, and The Daily Beast.

Reply