Sam Snead, a long ball hitter from days gone by, once said that he’d rather hit a wedge from the rough than a five-iron from the middle of the fairway. His philosophy was scorned by his peers, but he finished his career with eighty-two career victories, tied with Tiger Woods for the most ever. None of them were majors.
Collin Morikawa, one of today’s rising golf stars, averages 296 yards with his driver and hits the fairway 65.34% of the time. He ranks third in the “Strokes Gained” category on the PGA tour. He has one win and two second-place finishes, the most recent of which was a painful lip-out at the Charles Schwab Open a few weeks ago.
Jim Furyk, one of my personal favorites, only drives the ball 280 yards, but his accuracy rating is 77.78%. He’s won seventeen PGA Tour events, including the 2003 US Open and the 2010 Fedex Cup Championship. Jim’s a bit past his prime now, but he’s still the most accurate golfer in the field. That short stroke of his has earned him over $70 million in the eighteen years since he turned pro.
Who do you most admire?
The question should probably be, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” We all like to smash the ball, but how good are we with the short irons? Sam Snead got away with some errant tee shots because he could wedge his way out of trouble. Collin Morikawa is ranked 53rd in total accuracy. Furyk is number one. In fairness, the youngster from California is still just twenty-three years old.
Personally, I choose to emulate Jim Furyk. I can smash a driver 250 yards, but only hit the fairway about fifty percent of the time when I do that. A nice easy swing only gets me 200, but my accuracy is much better. If I use an iron, I’ll get less but land every tee shot in play. That gives me a far better chance to birdie or par the hole. On good days that happens a lot. Bad days not so much.
Long drives are great, but there’s more to the game. One of my instructors once told me that it will take me three shots to get to the green on a long par five, no matter what I do. I can get 250 off the tee, but I don’t have a club in my bag that will give me the rest in one. Unless you’re really good, you don’t either. Don’t try to kill the ball. Get there in three and you’ll still be putting for birdie.