Bump and Run High Anxiety

By David AllenNovember 19, 2009, 9:40 pm
We know it's difficult to find time to practice during the week. When a Saturday or Sunday tee time rolls around, you're hoping to find some spark or productive swing thought that will help you break 100, 90, 80 or whatever your scoring goal may be.
With the weekend warrior in mind we created Bump and Run, a weekly Q&A with some of the game's top instructors. Each Friday, a teaching professional will occupy this space and answer questions directed at improving your game. This week it's Pat Goss, head coach and director of golf at Northwestern University and one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers in America.
Pat Goss, Luke DonaldPAT GOSS
Head coach & director of golf, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.


- Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers in America
- Golf Digest's Best Teachers in State (Illinois)
- Four-time Big Ten Coach of the Year (1997, 1999, 2000, 2001)

Students (past and present)
Luke Donald, Jess Daley, Tom Johnson, Dillon Dougherty

Web Site:


Goss, in his 14th season at NU, has coached the Wildcats to four Big Ten titles (1999-2001, '06) and three top-10 finishes in the NCAA Championships (1997, '98, '99). Led by the school's lone NCAA champion, Luke Donald, Northwestern took third in '99.

Goss continues to coach Donald, and has helped the native of England become one of the world's top players (Donald was ranked as high as No. 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking in 2006). Currently 27th in the world rankings, Donald ranked No. 1 on the PGA Tour in sand save percentage (64.4 percent) and No. 4 in putts per GIR (1.729) in 2009.

'Over the years, what we've found with Luke is that as his short-game stats have improved, he's been more successful,' said Goss, 'even if he's had poor ball-striking stats. That's to be expected. Some of it has been a gradual focus and improvement over a period of five or six years, really working on short-game fundamentals, being committed to it and understanding how important it is.'

To submit a question to Goss or one of our teachers, please e-mail bumpandrun@thegolfchannel.com and check back every Friday to see if your question got answered. 

Luke was top 10 on the PGA Tour in a lot of putting stats this past year (putts from 4-8 feet, inside 10 feet, 10-15 feet). Why has he improved in that area so much over the years?

The biggest change he's made is go from what I call a 'rock and blocker' – meaning he putted too much with his shoulders, thus causing the putter to become delofted on the backstroke – to someone who putts more with his arms. He's letting his body swing in response to the swinging of the clubhead, effectively maintaining the loft on the putterhead. As a result, he’s able to roll it more online.

How are the new USGA regulations on groove size and edge sharpness going to affect Luke on shots inside 30 yards?

In general, he’s going to end up with 2 to 3 feet more runout around the greens (with his wedges), whether it’s a bunker shot or a pitch. Guys who depend on the low, spinning pitch and don’t have real good fundamentals, they’re going to have a bigger adjustment. If you’re the bomb-and-gouge type who’s trying to hit the ball as far as you can, then hack your wedge out of the rough, it's going to be hard to hit that spinning pitch when you've short-sided yourself. The guys who know how to use the bounce correctly and have good pitching fundamentals – and create spin the right way – will be impacted less.

The average golfer won't be affected much by the groove change, because he has trouble spinning the ball out of the rough to begin with. He needs to rely on trajectory to stop the ball. How do you pitch the ball close when you've short-sided yourself?

First of all, course strategy is going to be critical. You have to really look at the odds and understand what your percentage of getting the ball up and down is. A lot of times when you’re short-sided, the only real play – the smart play – is to pitch the ball 25 feet past the hole, make your two-putt and don’t allow yourself to make a double bogey. You’ve got to take your medicine.


Luke Donald floats a high pitch shot.
To hit a high, soft pitch, finish with your hands by your left hip pocket and the face pointing toward you, as Luke Donald does here.
As far as hitting the shot, the ball needs to be positioned forward of center in your stance, with the shaft centered. Most players like to move the ball back with the handle forward, and from there they’ve got no chance. The Tour players also lay the face open before they grip the club, so they’re not manipulating it with their hands. They’re laying it open and gripping it so effectively they’re gripping it from a much weaker position. From there, you’ve got to be able to get the club up (toe up) on plane with the face open; you’ve got to be able to generate speed, releasing the club correctly.

What do you mean by 'releasing' the club in this instance?

You’re trying to get the face to stay open as the toe slides under the ball, but you don’t do it by holding the face open. If you watch good players do it, they release the club, rehinge it, and finish with the club right by their left hip pocket. There’s no trying to hold the face to the sky.

On a normal full-swing shot you’re trying to create a lot of face rotation, and the face is rotating over. When you’re releasing on a high pitch shot you’re sliding the toe under. The easiest way I could explain it is if there were a couple of eyes on the face of your lob wedge, when you release it, those two eyes should be looking back at your head at the finish. The face of the club should be pointed back at your head, whereas in a full shot it would be pointed way around and released.

How many wedges do you recommend the average golfer carry, and should one of them be a lob wedge?

I think it depends on the person, but you also have to tie that into the rest of their game. The thing we do see with the average player is they have three or four clubs toward the end of their bag (5-wood, 7-wood, 3-iron, 4-iron, etc.) that they hit the same distance. I think most players, if they wanted to go to four wedges, could easily do it just by eliminating a club at the end of their bag.

You should carry a 58- or 60-degree wedge and learn how to use it. The biggest thing I hear from average golfers who don’t is that the club creates too many problems for them. They mishit it too often. But if you learn how to use this club properly it’s such a great advantage. 

Many golfers who find themselves short-sided prefer to have a little grass, or cushion, under the ball. Why is that?

Videos from Pat Goss

Video: Good Pitch Contact Drill
  • Video: 40-yard Pitch from Tight Fairway Lie
  • Video: High, Soft Pitch Over a Greenside Bunker
  • Video: Short Pitch from Behind the Green
The true measure of someone’s pitching fundamentals always comes down to this question. If you prefer your ball to be in the first cut of rough rather than in the fairway, then you’re not hitting the shot correctly. Usually what it means is you’re hitting too much up on the ball. When that ball is in the first cut of grass you can swing underneath the ball, hit it on ascending angle, and pop it up nicely.

So if you have no grass under your ball (a tight lie), and you've got to hit a high, soft pitch over a bunker, how do you do it?

To be able to do it from the fairway, a couple of things become important. Again, ball position has to be forward of center (in your stance) and the handle centered, not leaning forward. To create a little height you want to use the natural loft of the club.

The big thing from there becomes hinging the club up on plane, so that it (the clubhead) is in line with your hands going back or just outside your hands. Swing the club down on a descending angle, allowing the momentum of the club to pull your weight forward.

How important is it to keep the clubhead accelerating through impact?

We talk to our players a lot about accelerating without feeling like you hit (the ball). You want to keep the clubhead moving all the way to the finish without feeling such a direct hit at impact. That will make the ball come off a lot softer. The handle should finish by your left hip.

What's the biggest fault you see with amateurs in the short game?

We were all told not to scoop, and the way we were taught not to scoop is to put the ball back in our stance and lean the handle forward. That’s a good setup to ensure solid contact but it can’t produce any height. Then what happens is when you go to hit a shot where you need to create height, the only way you can do it is by backing up your body and hitting up on the ball. You’ve created a setup that doesn’t generate any loft, so in your swing you have to create loft the wrong way, going backwards, which is a recipe for hitting fat or thin shots.

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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”