Watching the opening holes of the 2021 PGA Championship at was exciting and somewhat mind boggling. As the announcers second guess many of the opening tee shots, I have to agree that shot selection was a bit suspect at best for many of the big hitters. I am not sure what the players thought process was because many of them hit driver ended up their ball into the deep rough or hazard. Normally, I would say that this not really a big deal except a 3 wood sounded like the right play. Especially on the first hole of the second Major of the year.
I realize that The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, South Carolina, is rated #4 Public Golf Course in U.S. and Ranked 25th amongst the 100 Greatest U.S. Golf Courses (Golf Digest) and it is a beast when the wind picks up. I watch player after player aggressively attack the course only to be chewed up and spit out. So, I have to ask why smarter shot selection was not at the top of the list on the first hole.
I realize that the first hole (left) is tough and the wind was a huge factor. I assume that many players thought they should follow the advice of Pete Dye, The Architect. Here is the details from the Ocean Course Website:
This hole presents one of the narrowest fairways on the course. Still, there is plenty of room between the natural sand area along the right side of the fairway and the thick dune grass bordering the left. A good drive will leave a short iron into a gently undulating green tucked into a natural dune area.
Pete Dye’s Comment: This hole is the furthest from the ocean. We did everything we could to make it as open as possible off the tee. There is a mammoth amount of room to hit your driver, so just hit it. The green is at ground level and everything on the left bounces into the green. It should be an easy starting hole.https://kiawahresort.com/golf/the-ocean-course/
At 395 yards, hitting the 3 wood seemed to be the smart play considering how far the professionals can hit this club. That would leave a 9 iron or PW into the green. If I had those options (which I do on the 6th hole of my home course at Osprey Links although it is 60 yards shorter) I would be hitting my 3 wood 95% of the time. Leaving a short iron into any green is how I want my course management strategy to shine; especially during a tournament. So, I wonder why during a Major, all the players do not hit 3 wood into the fairway and set up a short iron into the first green!
I get that it is easy to second guess these players and I really do not have the game to question their shot selection, however all I heard from the announcers is that the 3 wood was the smart play. At first I thought they were being overly critical, but as I watched tee shot after tee shot I think they were right. My experience from playing many tournaments is not to be overly aggressive on the first hole is a poor course management strategy. I cannot win the tournament on the first hole, but I sure can lose it!
On a happy note, Corey Connors is leading after the first day. I always have to give a shout out to any Canadian that leads the pack!
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!
4 thoughts on “Shot Selection At The PGA Championship”
I missed the first round and what I’ve seen online so far hasn’t really given me a good look at the problems they had on the 1st tee. My only thought on the subject is maybe they were thinking to take advantage of the fact that the winds weren’t as high as expected? Wind gusts were 26 miles per hour here all week so I’ve been playing in winds like what they expected. I play in conditions like that all too often in fact. It’s just part of living in Florida. But, what they got was light winds in the morning I hear. Not sure about later but I assume it was more. It seems like that one not so little change from their expectations might be enough for them to say bring it on I’m going for it.
Off topic, I read another article today concerning bounce on our wedges. Very interesting. The author delves a little deeper into the subject without getting technical and provides insight into when the amount of bounce we might have on a given club is most useful. Something I’ve picked up mostly through trial and error. When I ordered my Mizuno wedges for instance, I didn’t care what bounce was being offered and got lucky I chose fairly well for both my game and where I play. 5° on the lob, 10° on the sand wedge, and 8° on the gap wedge but next time I’ll be better armed to make a better decision for me and the conditions I play in. Maybe one more degree for the lob and 2 for the sand wedge maybe, and slight change to my gapping. Currently it’s 6° across the wedges and that’s likely making it harder for me sometimes than I could get with closer gapping. I mean I’m one who likes hitting off speed swings so that helps, but it’s still has to be an improvement. And this is one improvement I can buy. Those are the easiest kind. lol
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The article on bounce is awesome. Thanks for sharing. I use 8° for all my wedges. I have found they work best for me. Also, I use F grind. I really have a standard swing and every time I get fitted for something, that is what the numbers show.
First of all the don’t all play #1 as the “first” hole and second it’s mostly all about analytics. Statistically speaking the average score to get down after the tee shot get
Less the closer you get to the green. Simple math as calculated from using millions of shots using the ShotLink data provided by the tour. It’s the whole basis of the Strokes Gained stats. Over time if they play the averages it is worth the risk. The difference of average distance to the hole and GIR etc by hitting wedge in instead of 7 iron for example is worth it to them. All about stats and probability
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You are right about analytics driving the shot selection. I sometimes wonder if that aspect of the game has taken away some of the course management processes. I know that I rely on experience and how I feel on any given day for my for my shot selection, but I am not a professional who has greater command of their game. I like your last line about stats and probability…..might make a good article for the future. I hope you are playing well and staying on the short grass.