Monday, February 1, 2010
Where Did All The Backbones Go?
You're standing in the middle of the fairway on a par-5, with enough club to get home in two. You need to make birdie. You have to make birdie. You have two choices. Pull out the big stick and go for the green or lay up to a comfortable yardage and hope you can wedge it close enough for the birdie.
Prior to 2010, it seemed most would go for it. The lay-up decision works every now and again, but what a lot of people forget is that it requires not only a good swing with you mid-iron, but also a great short iron shot followed up by a perfect putt.
This year, however, the "go for it" mentality seems to be happening as much on tour as a Tiger Woods sighting. Bubba Watson had a chance to go for a par-5 in two on Sunday at the Bob Hope. He did not, and settled for par. Tim Clark was in the fairway on the 18th hole at the exact same tournament, needing a birdie to take the lead on the final hole and force Bill Haas to make birdie for a playoff. Clark laid up, and par was what he wrote down. (And to add insult to decision injury, Haas sacked up, went for it in two, made birdie and won the damn tournament.)
Now comes Michael Sim. He's 25-years-old, fresh off a dominating run on the Nationwide Tour and was in the fairway on the 18th hole at Torrey Pines needing to make a four. Both days prior to Sunday, when Sim was on the 18th at the South Course, he elected to lay up. Both days, he walked away with five.
SIm had 240-yards, a yardage not entirely insane for a professional golfer. It was so meaty, as they say, that Gary McCord incorrectly reported that Sim was going to hit a 2-iron, since the symbol a caddie gives the on-course announcer is the same for 2-iron and 7-iron (two fingers).
Sim hit his 7-iron down the fairway, spun his third shot off the front of the green, made par and watched as Ben Crane celebrated his third career victory.
Sim's explanation is as follows ...
"Yeah, I hit a perfect drive down there the left side, had 224 meters front, and for me that's really stretching a 3-wood, so I decided to lay up to a nice yardage. I looked for 80 meters and I hit it to 82, so it was a perfect, perfect number and hit a perfect shot, probably threw it past the hole maybe eight yards and just kept spinning back and it eventually went off the front of the green. It would have been nice to have a putt at it for birdie to get to 13, but it wasn't the case. So yeah.
I think (my 3-wood yardage) was right on -- I think I could have got there, but like I said, it had to be all of it. I had 224 meters front, and I reckon I can probably carry it 225, 230, but like I said, I had to hit it flush, and I wasn't swinging that well and just decided to lay up to a comfortable number. "
I've watched a lot of sports over the years, and if there is one thing I've pulled from it, it is this theory. If you have a chance to win something, make sure you do it on your own terms. Sim had a chance to go for it in two, with the exact carry distance his 3-wood could handle, meaning if he flushed a golf shot, he was probably looking at a 25-footer or so for eagle, forcing Crane to make birdie for the win and if he somehow found the cup for eagle, a birdie for a playoff. Sim took the power of winning out of his own hands when he didn't go for it, allowing Crane to basically play for par and force the young Australian to get up and down from 80-some yards.
Obviously Sim knows his game better than I do. He is a great player and felt that his decision was the right one and I guess at the end of the day you can't fault him for that. What I would like to see more of, however, on the PGA Tour is guys playing golf. Forget what you think is the correct decision, or what your coach would say, and rip that second shot like you would if you were out with your buddies.
You're telling me Sim lays up from there any other day of the year? I say no, and if you're going to win on this tour, you have to pick your spots to play carefully. This wasn't one of them and his trophy-less fly home probably reminded him of that.