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The Tour Report
  • INSTRUCTION

    On the Mark: Villegas tees it low to succeed

  • Camilo Villegas surged into the Playoffs with his first win in four years. (Robert Laberge/Getty Images)Camilo Villegas surged into the Playoffs with his first win in four years. (Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

In a bit of a surprise, Camilo Villegas won the Wyndham Championship in the final event before the FedExCup Playoffs. Wyndham always hosts a fun event with a real vacation-type atmosphere and the North Carolina fans enjoy a great time as they watch the TOUR’s best take on the classic venue at Sedgefield and its challenging greens.

The mood among the competitors was dramatically different however. The looming end to the PGA TOUR season saw a number of competitors playing for either their PGA TOUR lives, or playing to earn a spot in The Playoffs. Further there were a few players on the Ryder Cup bubble who were looking to catch Captain Tom Watson’s attention with some solid play. As always, the Wyndham Championship exhibited an interesting dynamic and certainly made for some absorbing viewing.

A number of the form players made their way to the top of the leaderboard over the weekend. In the end it was Villegas who parlayed Thursday and Sunday rounds of 63 into a one-strike win. The victory was the Colombian’s first trip to the winner’s circle since 2010.

As shown in the photo above, Camilo has always been one of the most physically fit players on TOUR. Indeed, he more often than not will log huge distances on his bike in an effort to remain fit. All of us can copy him and work to get into better cardiovascular and physical shape as that will no doubt help our games. Further, we can also learn a couple of important principles from Villegas’s approach to the game:

Launch it high yet be prepared to tee it low: Villegas drove the ball very well throughout the four rounds at Sedgefield. He averaged just over 300 yards per tee shot and found the fairway more than 76 percent of the time. And get this; he did so using a driver with 13 degrees of loft.

All too often I see high-handicappers using clubs, especially drivers, with too little loft in an effort to gain more distance. Do note that a golf ball’s trajectory is a function of launch angle, ball speed and ball spin (not bearing in mind atmospheric conditions) and the trajectory has a very real influence on distance.

The modern designs of shafts make it possible to lower backspin which effectively reduces drag on the ball. This results in a more penetrating and more powerful ball flight. There is a trade-off though; lower spin needs a higher launch to keep the ball aloft to get the maximum in terms of yardage.

In other words, a more lofted driver is not a bad idea at all. Along those lines, do consider that the average clubhead speed for a male amateur is between 90-95 mph and the average for a female amateur is 65 mph. Given those clubhead speeds, it is also imperative to get the ball airborne to gain max distance -- another reason to increase the loft instead of decreasing the loft on the driver.

If finding the fairway is more important than distance to you I would recommend you emulate the way Camilo Villegas approached his tee ball on the final hole of the tournament. Villegas teed the ball lower than normal and played the ball slightly back of the regular ball position. He then made a smooth and balanced pass with the driver and ripped a low and running draw down the fairway.

Teeing the ball down is a secret most of the pros use when they have to hit a fairway-finder. Try it; just ensure you make a complete backswing and a smooth swing to a balanced finish.

It all ends with the putter: Consider these stats from Bill Cooney's Stats Report on PGATOUR.COM: Nicholas Thompson missed 10 putts from 3 feet this season. He went 787 of 797 to rank 166th on TOUR from that distance. Also, in 81 rounds Thompson went 992 of 1,050 from putts inside of 5 feet (174th on TOUR).

Here’s the kicker: Nicholas Thompson finished 0.627 of a point shy of qualifying for the FedExCup Playoffs. (He finished 126th with 437 FedEx Cup points.) In other words, one stroke would essentially have made the difference for Thompson.

The cliché goes, “You drive for show and you putt for dough.” Well, here’s proof: At the Memorial Tournament, Nicholas Thompson missed a birdie putt from 2 feet and ended up missing the cut by one stroke. That putt alone would have qualified him for the Playoffs.

So get out there and practice your putting!

Good luck.
/mi

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.

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