Every golfer has played out the fantasy: It's the final hole of a
major championship, and you need to stiff an approach shot to win
the title. Shaun Micheel faced that exact situation on Sunday in
his first PGA Championship, and from 175 yards he flushed his
seven-iron shot to within two inches of the cup at Oak Hill's
brutally difficult 482-yard 18th hole. To me, the most amazing
thing about the shot wasn't the result, although that was
obviously impressive. Micheel had been playing superbly all day,
and he had an ideal lie in the first cut and a perfect yardage to
rip a seven-iron at the hole. What I was most impressed by was
Micheel's demeanor, especially during his preshot routine. While
many Tour pros would have been so jittery they would have barely
been able to draw the club back, Micheel looked more placid and
relaxed than he had all day. What helped calm him was the comfort
of following his unswerving preshot routine. After standing a few
feet behind the ball to survey the situation, he stepped up to
the ball, put the club into position so it was square to his
intended target, moved his body into the address position, took a
couple of waggles and then made a loose, languid swing that
earned him a place in history.
FOUR COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF CBS (4, BIG PLAY)
COLOR PHOTO: MEL LEVINE Eric Alpenfels, the director of instruction at the Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort, is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher.
THREE COLOR PHOTOMONTAGES: MEL LEVINE; JIM GUND (BACKGROUND)
OUR TOP TEACHER SAYS...
"No matter how loudly Tour pros whine about nasty rough like
Oak Hill's, they'll see it at every major except the Masters
because it's the only way to make par meaningful."
"Experience is the most misused word on Tour. So-called
inexperienced players like Shaun Micheel, Chad Campbell and Tim
Clark have been competing intensely and at a high level since
they were little boys."
"Tour players will disagree, but I think the number of PGA
exemptions for club pros should be raised from 25 to 35. We may
not always contend, but our association runs the event, and even
after rewarding 10 more club pros with a spot, the field would
still be the strongest of the year from one to 100."
"Michelle Wie is likely to become the first woman this year
to make the cut in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event when she plays in
next month's Boise Open on the Nationwide tour."
THE TIP/PRESHOT ROUTINE
1 Standing behind the ball, take your grip and pick your intended
target, as well as an intermediate target--a leaf or a divot, for
example--a couple of feet ahead of the ball. Visualize the ball
2 Address the ball with the club face square to the intermediate
target, your right foot in place and your left foot open. Glance
back and forth between your ball and the intermediate and
3 Draw your left foot in so your foot line is parallel to the line
of the intermediate target. Glance a final time at the intended
target and let 'er rip.
...THEN TRY THIS
You don't have to copy my preshot routine, which is pretty basic,
but you must develop your own ritual and know it well enough that
you can write out each step. A great way to develop and practice
a preshot routine is to go to the range and play an imaginary
round on your favorite course. Play each hole, hitting drives,
approaches and chips (skip bunker shots and putts). This drill
focuses your practice on quality rather than quantity by forcing
you to hit a wide variety of shots and become intimately familiar
with your preshot routine.