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May 5 2012

2:04 PM

On the Mark: Home course strategy

Quail Hollow is one of the classic golf courses on the PGA TOUR. It is scenic, undulating and always in immaculate shape. Besides its superb conditioning and the easy Southern charm of the facilities, Quail (as the membership affectionately dubs it) boasts a nice mix of left-to-right and right-to-left doglegs, and a good blend of difficult and easy holes.

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Immelman

Quail Hollow certainly rewards good play, but it will quickly penalize errant play. That makes it an excellent tournament venue.

The future PGA Championship venue welcomes the players with a par 4 of 410 yards that calls for a fairway wood off the tee and a short iron into the green. The gentle opening hole is followed by a par 3 that measures about 180 yards, but plays a little shorter as it is downhill.  The Queen City gem is not all Southern hospitality though. After delighting a player for fifteen holes, Quail Hollow suddenly turns nasty with a three-hole closing stretch that rivals any in the game for degree of difficulty. The Green Mile (holes 16, 17 and 18) makes for a fearsome trio of challenges and any player in the field will happily play in even par.

Quail Hollow is home to many accomplished players, one of whom is right near the top of proceedings through two rounds. Webb Simpson lives about a mile from the course and this week’s Wells Fargo Championship is a home game for him.

To me,the tournament at your home venue presents a unique challenge. One would expect that the home member should play well, but all too often it is not that easy. Playing the home-game well requires and poised mind-set and there is a lot for us to learn from Webb’s performance thus far.

Most competitors fail to perform as well as they would like when they enter a tournament staged at their home venue. In my opinion, the reason being is that they make too much of the fact that they are playing at home and they go into the event with a lot of expectation and anticipation. Indeed Simpson, by his own admission, was anxious to perform well at home. “I was just nervous, man,” Simpson said. “I needed to calm down a little bit. I want to do well for all the people that are there watching me and I think I put too much pressure on myself.” Webb admitted that he often prayed for calmness during the first rounds.

In my opinion, his approach was right on the button as the result of nervousness, expectation and anticipation is normally an increase in tension and tension is as big a problem as anything.

So play your home game like Webb has done so far. Approach it as you would approach any other tournament, and try to keep things as normal and routine as possible. Find a way to reduce your tension, be it meditation, breathing or prayer. Dot the “I’s” and cross the “T’s” in preparation. Cover all of your bases as you would in any other tournament, but trust your local knowledge of the course and use it to fortify your confidence and your trust. Then, go out there and strive to execute your plan as you revel in your local support.

Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, please visit his web site, markimmelman.com

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