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Patrick Reed at the Mexico Open on Thursday.
The pros make golf look easy. It’s not, of course. It just appears that way because most of the shots we see from our couches on Sunday afternoons are from players in total control of their games: the guys and gals at the top of the leaderboard delivering a steady diet of fairway-splitting tee shots, stuffed approaches and pured putts.
Truth is, golf is hard and maddening and messy — at all levels of the game. Yes, even on the PGA Tour.
How much golfers prepare for that messiness, however, is another matter.
What does your practice routine look like? If you’re like most players, you probably rip a bucket or two off flat, perfect lies then head to the practice green for a few la-di-da chips from fluffy lies or no-sweat bunker blasts. Rap a few gently breaking 10- to 20-footers on the green and off you go.
Patrick Reed will tell you you’re doing it all wrong, or at least omitting one crucial element from your routine: hard shots.
“Throughout all my practices I try to be uncomfortable,” Reed said Wednesday ahead of the Mexico Open. (If you’ve watched Reed play much, you know few players handle hard shots better, especially around the greens.) “You want to put yourself in uncomfortable situations when you practice so when you get in those situations on the golf course, you already have a sense, a feeling that I’ve done this before in practice.”
If you can’t find those situations on a range or practice green, then seek them out when you’re playing a few practice holes.
“You put the ball in divots, you put it on bad lies, you put yourself behind trees in practice to learn how to deal with those as well as, all right, also not just to hit a golf shot, but to see okay, where’s the best leave, make sure you’re thinking correctly because thinking’s 60 percent of the battle. All of us have the talent to be able to pull off a golf shot, but when you’re not swinging it well, when you’re in a bad spot, am I thinking correctly to put myself in the best spot so minimize the damage?”
Reed found himself in just such a situation at the Mexico Open Thursday morning when on the par-4 10th he short-sided himself on a rough-choked uphill lie. From there, he played the ball off his back foot, popped it softly into the air and let it release toward and into the hole for an unexpected birdie. Had he practiced that shot before? Sure looked like it.
Reed’s game-improvement advice Wednesday didn’t end with practice tips. He also spoke to the importance, in 72-hole tournaments, of not letting rough spells demoralize him.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a three-hole stretch, a nine-hole stretch, you still have a long time to kind of try to make it up. That’s the thing in golf is it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. The sprints are the Monday qualifiers, 18 holes you’ve got to go out and perform. But when you have a full tournament, you’re going to have your ups and downs throughout the round and you just have to make sure that on the downs, they don’t get you out of it mentally.”
Reed has been quiet of late, with not a single top-20 finish in 2022, but perhaps this is the week he turns things around. After a four-under 67 on Thursday, he’s three off the lead, making it look easy.
As GOLF.com’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at GOLF.com, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.
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