The Arnold Palmer Inv. is a home game for Tiger Woods, but he treats it like any other week. (Greenwood/Getty Images)
By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM
It appears that nobody is a match for Tiger at any event staged at Arnie’s Place. Once again, he navigated his way around the challenging Bay Hill Club and Lodge layout en route to the navy blue champions jacket and the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard title – his eighth. In doing so he tied the legendary Sam Snead for the most tournament titles in a single event.
His performance was impressive as always, but his work on the greens was the stuff of which stories are written. I certainly could spend time writing about Tiger’s putting stroke but to me there were two less-tangible lessons we can learn from the new world No. 1’s play:
The Home Game – Do it properly: The Bay Hill golf course is like Tiger Woods’ backyard and it is as close to a home game as anything for him. Not only is Arnold Palmer’s noted golf facility adjacent to Isleworth, where Tiger lived for the bulk of his professional career, it is also the site where Woods has enjoyed numerous tournament triumphs. He had notable success there winning eight tournaments (seven professional and one amateur) before his victory last week. In essence it may as well be a home game for Woods.
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. The result of these two emotions is normally an increase in tension and tension is as big a “swing-wrecker” as anything. So play your home game like Tiger did. Approach it as you would any other tournament. Dot your “I’s” and cross your “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 relax and execute your plan. Tiger certainly did and all week long he appeared to have a quiet confidence about him.
Par 5s – The key to low scores: Tiger Woods manhandled the par 5s at Bay Hill, playing them in a whopping 14 under. (His total for the 72-hole tournament was 13 under.)
I often pass on the following adage to the tournament golfers I teach: Make 3s on the par 3s and 4s on the par 5s and you will have the nucleus for a good score. If you want to make low scores and be a good tournament player you have to take advantage of the golf course’s soft under-belly, the par 5s. To do so, employ a blend of strategy and power. Don’t just get on the tee of the par 5 and swing for the fences. Pick your spots to attack and defend. The worst thing for your scorecard is to have to pencil a 6 or a 7 on there because of a silly decision or an unwarranted attack or bold play. (For the record, Woods only made one bogey on the par 5s all week.) Attack when the time is right and you are in good position to do so; defend when you must and remember that sometimes even Tiger Woods has to lay up on a par 5. So to ensure that you are consistently able to convert on the par 5s, be savvy and set aside practice time to work on your wedge play.
Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.