The Bear Trap at PGA National is one of the most difficult stretches of closing holes in golf.
Despite the challenge those holes present, Thompson was able to hang on and get the win, evading high numbers through the difficult stretch by having a plan and sticking to it.
Statistically, Thompson ranks well outside the top 100 in several major categories on the PGA Tour. However, as evidenced by his second best finish on Tour (a tie for second in the U.S. Open), he clearly thrives on a difficult golf course.
The reason Thompson thrives is because of his short game, especially his ability to get up and down for par. He knows this is his strength and he builds game plans that cater to this strength.
So how do you strategize on the course to play to your strengths?
• First things first, you must identify your strengths and weaknesses. It’s difficult to play to your strengths if you don’t know what they are. Keeping stats like fairways hit, greens in regulation, save percentage and putts per round are a basic way to find out what you’re good at. You can also use short-game tests, like Charlie King’s Red Zone Challenge, to zero in on which short-game shots are easiest for you.
• Knowing which short-game shots come easier allows you to strategize correctly on approach shots. For example, if you know you’re not very good at 30-yard pitch shots, you can adjust your desired lay-up position to a more comfortable distance.
• Much like Thompson, if you notice you have an uncanny ability to get up and down for par, be sure you don’t jeopardize par by getting too aggressive off the tee or on your approach. Smart club selection off the tee (like subbing a fairway wood for the driver every so often) can help keep the ball in play and increase your chances for making par or better!