Masters Roundtable with Chris O'Connell, Jamie Mulligan and Jeff Smith
Coaching, Insider, Podcast

Masters Roundtable with Chris O’Connell, Jamie Mulligan and Jeff Smith

We have some awesome instructors here with us, talking about how they are getting their players ready. It’s a phenomenal conversation with these guys. They have a ton of insights into how they’re preparing for the masters, what they’re doing beforehand, what they’re doing there while on-site and some insights in strategy, this is jam packed with good stuff.

Chris O’Connell: Well, as far as Augusta, I’ll just have a one player, Matt Kuchar. Matt and I started working together in 2006; so it doesn’t seem that long, but, we’ve had a good run and yeah it makes my work pretty easy to have one guy at a tournament. So this’ll be his 10th masters since I’ve been with him – I think he qualified in 2010 and then he’s qualified every year. As the other instructors know, sometimes at a tournament, you got three, four or five guys you’re looking after, to look after one guy is pretty easy and Matt’s pretty low maintenance as it is. He doesn’t get too ruffled, and we’re looking forward to it. It’ll be an interesting week. It’s hard to wrap your head around that were this late in the year and The Masters is coming up. Looking forward that they’re going to allow the instructors to stay on for the week and  actually watch the tournament, which will be great. 

Jamie Mulligan:  I’ve been working with Patrick Cantlay since he was seven years old, so for over 20 years now. I actually started playing golf with his grandfather when I was an assistant at the club that I’m the CEO at, Virginia Country Club in Long Beach, then I taught his father as well – he was the club champion at our club. I’ve been with Patrick, and basically started him; been able to watch his ascent and all the good things that he’s done. This is our 27th trip to Augusta with players, out of that I’ve been with Patrick about four or five times, as well as when he was an amateur there. 

 Jeff Smith: Actually this year, I don’t have a player in the field but ‘ve been to three of the last four, with some of my players: Aaron Wise, Scott Piercey. I also work with Viktor Hovland. Who unfortunately would have normally probably be in the field this year, but with the cutoff, because of COVID, he’s kind of left out of the field with his win earlier in the year. So, like these guys mentioned as a coach, Augusta’s not like any other week on tour for us. There’s a lot of restrictive movements. There’s a lot of places where we have to be and where we can’t be. For me, it’s been a strange experience because it’s a completely different routine than what we normally have during the week where maybe we’re walking practice rounds with our players or we’re on the greens or on the golf course. That’s pretty restricted at Augusta, so you don’t quite get the same detail or level of work that we would normally get on a normal tour week.

TOURNAMENT PREP – How to get players ready for a major, from two to four weeks out.

Cordie Walker: We’ll start with you, Jamie, because very interestingly, Patrick is coming off a win, and obviously playing really well. Do you find that it’s more difficult or there’s more pressure applied? In the sense, of going into a major after a big win and playing well like that?

Jamie Mulligan: Yeah. You stole my punchline there. I was going to say, we like to win within a month of a major. It makes it a lot easier to get ready to go. We’re huge on, running this system all the time with of all of our players and everybody that week add the 15 LPGA or PGA players that we’ve ever worked with. We kind of put them in what we call the wheel – the wheel is a manner of all these spokes and our job is to keep the spokes straight. They all have different mannerisms in different ways about what they need to do. The spokes are kind of the iconic for whatever they’re doing in those little areas. Our job is to keep them straight and also our job as instructors is to see how straight we can keep them all year long and whether it’s a major, or it’s a regular event.

I think we’ve done a pretty good job, in my mind and our players’ minds, of not changing the spokes up too much. If they get bent, we figure out why they’re bent and we try to work on them. So interestingly, with Patrick for a couple of months, since we got back from the break, he’s been trending really, really nice. Having a a spectacular round in an event, then a really solid round then a so-so round and kind of an indifferent round, but off the away from the tournament and watching him prep and watching him do his gig, rather it was nutrition or fitness or how he was working on his motion or rolling the ball or short game and all looked on point but we weren’t getting quite the results that we’re trying to. So to have this last week and watch it come together.

We stayed out in Malibu last week and my club is in Long Beach with our member desk going on, so I was driving back and forth and every drive back, go to the club before I drove out to Malibu was thinking that he’s on point and he looks really, really great. So it’s fun when that thing comes to fruition and right now we’re going to keep him in the bubble. He actually went out there and played yesterday and they had a great day. We were going to go out and actually play with him but we had all the fires in California. So we thought it would be best to stay home and be safe around here, but he’s ready to go. So now we’ll just kind of keep him in chill mode and he’s great at that as well too. He can stay indifferent in his mind and not get worried about things. He’s done it enough now that we’re ready, and then when we get back on Monday to start, we’ll do our regular things in order to prepare and get ready.

TECHNICAL INSTRUCTION – Where do you put your focus going into the Masters? 

Cordie: What about instruction? You know, as far as technical teaching, what kinds of things are you willing to work on leading up to a major two to four weeks out? And what kinds of things are you not willing to work on? 

Jeff Smith: I don’t really think it’s any different for a major than it is for the normal course of the year.  Every player has a set of fundamentals that they’re working on from a technique standpoint. When you get to this level of coaching, those things don’t change very often. It’s just executing on those things better and better and better. So for a major, I find myself gravitating more toward deescalation. These guys know what they’re playing for. They get ramped up themselves. They know that a majors coming up, they put more pressure on themselves than necessary. So I find myself really trying to minimize the expectation, minimize the moment, make them more aware of their basic fundamentals and not really try to go outside the box and reach a lot; because that’s the first thing a player will do when they feel a lot of pressure of a big moment or a big tournament. They’ll be like, ‘Hey, what do you think about this? Look at this part of my swing’’; all these things that we’ve never even talked about before now are popping up. I think that’s just a response to stress, so my job in that moment, or that role is to really just deescalate and make them comfortable and focused on the things that actually truly matter to their game – playing their best golf.

Cordie: Totally. Chris let’s hear from you. Two to four weeks out, what are you and Matt working on? What is the weekly routine look like and what is the practice? From a very practical standpoint, what’s actually going on?

Chris O’Connell : Augusta is a little different for us. 11 months, actually 51 weeks a year, Matt Kuchar wants to fade or even slice the ball, then about the first part of March, he starts asking me how to hit a drop because March is when he starts thinking about Augusta. I have two conversations with Matt. Number one, I talk about Jack Nicholas who played a fade and won six green jackets to show him, he doesn’t have to draw the ball, but then we’ll work on it. There’s a couple holes, particularly 10 and 13, which are beneficial if you can move the ball right left. That’s always an interesting, whenever he asks about that, is when I know masters week is coming because I’ve never met anybody who has more disdain for a ball going left than Matt Kuchar.

The second thing that he gets really gets tuned in on is having complete control in his short game. I say, control – he wants to see how much spin he can generate. Augusta greens get so firm and fast, especially late in the day. If you don’t have spin on your golf ball, you could hit two chips that are seemingly the same and they could end up 30 feet apart. He’s really big on his contact in short game and trying to spin the ball. Then he wants to be able to draw the ball at 10 and 13. Other than that out there, I don’t think drawing the ball is that important. It’s always we spent 51 weeks trying to not make it go that way and then all of a sudden he thinks he needs it. It’s a little bit of what Jeff said, where sometimes I think players maybe make it overcomplicated instead of just sticking with what got them there. They think they got to do something special to win a major, but the majors are still a 72 hole golf tournament. It’s nothing more than that.

Cordie Walker: So did you get the text where he was asking how it hit a draw this year already?

Chris O’Connell : Oh Yeah. I think he kind of forgot that the masters was coming up. So he didn’t ask a month in advance, he just asked last week.

Cordie Walker: That’s great. So I’m hearing the theme of deescalation from all of you. The goal is what you is what Chris just said “do what got you there and don’t try to go outside the box or do anything different” is the key.

Jamie Mulligan: Concur here, for sure. I love the word deescalation. When you think about it, this is what they do for a living. This is what we do for a living. My moment’s going to make it bigger than it is, and they’re preparing their whole life in order to make the moment, the way that it is so they can perform and they can grab a trophy at the end. In our business, I think the more normal that you do to make everything – whether they’re practicing, playing around at home, playing around with somebody, playing in a tournament or playing overseas, wherever they are – the more normal you can make it, the more similar that you can make it the better that it is. 

Cordie Walker – Nitty-gritty details. Is there any kind of like games that you’re having people use? Is there anything you guys a fan of, such as visualizing a certain hole and trying to hit shots to and trying to dial in a shot pattern? Is there any kind of games or drills, which you feel are really helpful when preparing for a big tournament?

Jeff  Smith: Yeah. I’ve stood on the range with, the yardage book from Augusta, some of my players in preparation, and they’re kind going through every tee shot in their mind. We’ll create a type of a visual barrier on the range that represents, the second hole where you have to hit a big draw around the corner or whatever.  A lot of players will do that. In fact, one of my players was practicing this week at Medalist and Tiger Woods was out there doing exactly that – he had his yardage book out and was going through every single tee shot. I think that’s a pretty a common thing. The other thing that a lot of my guys will try to do, which it’s tricky, and very difficult to replicate because Augusta’s greens are so fast, there’s so much slope on them and we don’t really get to practice or look at greens very often, will, you make friends with the greenskeeper at the club, wherever they practice, and ask, “hey, can you double roll them? Can you speed up this back, chipping green for me?”; trying to get some kind of a realistic look at what they’re going to be playing that week. Like Chris mentioned, chipping at a place like Augusta is so difficult because you’ve never chip on speeds that aren’t on greens that fast with that much slope. I think it’s a hugely underrated skill that’s necessary to play well at the masters. That’s why you see guys like Bernhard Langer, every single year at the top of the leaderboards. It’s not necessarily because he’s out ball striking everybody. He just knows how to navigate those greens and can save a lot of those shots around there. That’s just a couple of little things that I’ll see guys do.

Chris O’Connell: Yeah. Frederica and Sea Island have a bunch of members on tour, Zach Johnson, Harrison, English – I know they will leading up to the Masters, get the greens just 14 and as fast as they can get them, which is great for the guys there because they get to train for a week or two heading into Augusta. It’s not such a shock when you all of a sudden show up, but at Augusta, the course changes so dramatically. We’ve arrived on a Sunday before the tournament week and it’s pretty benign, but then they have the ability to ramp that place up exactly how they want. They can get moisture out of that place overnight. As the week goes on the course changes quite a bit, but there’s some times when it’s late in the afternoon and there’s some wind blowing – those greens are your defensive putting. You might have an eight footer, and you’re trying to figure out how can I two putt this thing. It can get dicey around there.

Jaime Mulligan:  Our guys like what we call “running the movie all the time”. Meaning today’s junior golf, and tour players on Saturdays at our club, it’s run for three decades at one or two o’clock in the afternoon, we’ll have two tour players and a couple of young people that we’re working with and they’ll go out and play in. If there’s two groups of them, we’ll go out and play and I’ll watch it. 

A couple of years ago, we got to go with Phil and prepare. Patrick and Phil, after they played in the morning one day, Phill took his 64 and Patrick took his 60, and they were out there for three hours on the back nine hitting ditches. It’s saying the same thing that Chris and Jeff alluded to, that there’s not really any place that you pitch like here. That seems unique as this. While this was before the tournament, and obviously it was slower to go out there and just work with a guy that’s won the tournament three times and watch some pitches that he hits and watch him try to spin the ball into the slopes and allow the ball to matriculate down. 

Then lastly, every time that we’re there, when we arrive on a Monday I was walking out the golf course and looking at the course and going, “Oh my God, this place is so pure”. Regardless of where we are, because we get to go to such special venues, there’s no place like Augusta that changes as Chris said more from Monday to Sunday and they can do what they want. A year and a half ago it got drizzly, then by the time that you got to Saturday, the moisture was completely gone from a golf course. They can turn the buttons pretty well.

HOW TO RECALIBRATE PLAYERS MIDWEEK — What can you do to help players in a different environment like that?

Jeff Smith – Yeah, that’s a very tricky one there. I think one of the goals of the folks that put on the tournament are to make the tour players as uncomfortable as possible. That’s sort of the defense mechanism for the golf course – they want to keep you on your toes, keep you off balance. You won’t see things like putting equipment down on the practice putting green. I was there a couple of years ago and Bryson pulls out the GC Quad and sets it down there. Only 10 seconds later here come the green jackets, telling him to get this thing off the putting green. You’re not going to see guys putting levels down.

There’s a lot of like secrecy around the greens itself. There’s a lot of guys on tour who use, stuff on aim point where they’re very used to having slow books and knowing exactly what the slopes are and calibrating their aim point and all of that. So, as far as that stuff goes, those routines stay the same. The guys who spend a lot of time doing speed work on those greens again, I think to putt well or to play well there, you have to have great distance control and you got to be really, really solid around the hole. A lot of your, 30, 40 ft lag putts, they’re not going to end up as close to the hole on that first attempt as you would see at a normal tour event. So, you’re going to have a lot of five or six footers left. You’ll see a guy doing a lot of drills around the hole and stuff like that, in preparation.

Jaime Mulligan: I like the word texture work. How the ball is actually coming off your putter, regardless of where you are and with great cutters. Chris’s guy, Matt, probably does that as well as anybody. The strike looks the same, whether the greens are eight on the step meter or a 14 on the step meter. He’s basically controlling distance by letting the putter swing longer. I love that look with players, and I think at that place, it’s really important. 

I was also going to add, while the new driving range is almost better than most golf courses and you could stay there forever, for me being an old traditionalist. I’m not quite sure if the new putting green over there is similar to the one on the golf course, but I’ve never seen a putting green more similar than the putting green that’s right between the iconic one that’s right between one and ten. It feels exactly like the golf course. I think that’s a really good barometer green and we love going out there on Monday. When Patrick was an amateur, he stayed in the crow’s nest, I’d meet him there every morning for like an hour putt. We were just doing texture and speed work, and it’s amazing how that thing gets quicker. John Mayer played really nicely there his rookie year; finished six and had like a backdoor 65 that works in a six. I remember there was this 20 footer that we were hitting on the far right side of the putting green and this five footer that we were hitting all week. I literally saw that pocket twice as quick, including the uphill a little five foot or so, I think you got to gauge that. As Chris says, there is some defensive putting out there – getting more comfortable to that on a daily basis and watching what they do to make it evolve through the week is really important.

Chris O’Connell: Obviously as a teacher, it’s great to have a great putter; that makes you look good, but the one thing about Augusta is that people assume you have to be a great putter to win at Augusta. I can go through and list some dodgy putters that have won at Augusta: Bubba Watson, Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples, you get some players who aren’t known as great putters that still managed to win Augusta. People assume because the greens are super fast, you have to be a great putter. I think sometimes when they get super fast, the fact you’re putting defensive takes away that skill to where you’re almost trying putt, but you’re not, you’re not making putts. Also when they’re that fast you really don’t have to even make a stroke, you just kind of have to nudge it and get it going somewhere down near the hole. So everybody thinks you have to be a great putter, and I would certainly love to have Ben Crenshaw putting for me at Augusta. When I say weak, they’re great putters, but by tour standards, not their strength.

Cordie Walker: Why do you think it’s good to have a mindset shift potentially when putting. Is a good change and say, I’m going to be a little bit more defensive this week in my putting than I was last week.

Chris: Well, I mean, you hate to putt defensively, but there are so many putts out there, you’re simply trying to get it close to the hole. Jeff talks about doing speed drills – Matt does a speed drill where he tries to hit each putt a little bit longer than the last, if he comes up short, he starts over and then he has kind of a, he’s trying to see how many in a row he can get, and then he runs out of room. Normally, this drill he’ll set up say 20 feet as his first putt, 40 feet would be his longest. He starts trying to go 21 feet, 22 feet. Well, normally he can do that and he could probably get 10 in a row at Augusta. It makes you feel like an absolute beginner because you’ll hit what feels like the same putt, but at that speed, a slight more putter head speed, doesn’t equate to six inches past it equates to three feet pass. We’ll do that drill, but there are times where you do that drill and it somewhat defeats him because he realizes how challenging it really is. There’s very few putts of the Augusta that you feel comfortable putting aggressive. I think when Jamie was talking about Patrick, being out with Phil, where you’re chipping from is hugely important. If you’re chipping from the right spots, it’s very easy to get up and in, but you know, number one, you go over number one green and forget it. It’s just a cardinal sin. You cannot go over number one green. So if they have a pin in the back there, number one, it’s going to be really boring. Everybody’s going to hit it 30 feet short and trying to, but no nobody’s going to make a birdie unless that whole long putt, if they hit a close that hole there, in my opinion, they’re taking terrible strategy because there’s so many situations there where you’re trying to, I hate to say it, but you’re trying to avoid a certain position on the course.

Jeff : Yeah. I would say to further elaborate Chris’ point on nullifying the importance of being a great putter there. When you look at the data at Augusta, the separation value from player to player, doesn’t come from putting. For example, Shadow Creek here two weeks ago, Kokrak wins and he gains over 11 shots on the greens. You’re just not to see that happen at Augusta. So no one can really separate themselves that way from the rest of the field, it’s definitely a ball striker golf course. 

Augusta as the second shot golf course, so going into that you might have some leeway off the tee, but you’ve definitely gotta be on point and be very precise with your iron play. Again, like Chris mentioned, you’ve got to be very precise with your second shot on that golf course, because there are certain sections of those greens, if you hit the ball in the wrong section, it’s almost an auto three-putt sometimes you can’t stop it. It’s not necessarily a measure of how you’re putting, it’s a measure of hitting it on the right section of a green to not three-putt here. I would definitely agree with him, and say that historically, the great ball strikers are the ones who are putting themselves in position to win the tournament. I do think that you have to putt well to win, and to give yourself a chance to win any golf tournament on tour, but you don’t have to go crazy on the greens there. 

Cordie: Shots particular to masters week Let’s talk about short game prep. Are there any kind of shots that you feel like are particularly important to work on? Chris? You mentioned controlling spin is something that Matt works on a lot, any other kind of shots that are particular to masters week that you’d like to get players comfortable with and working on?

Jaime: I think Jeff touched on it in moving short game. They’re back even to the a 100 and 110 yard shot that you’re going to be first say, if you have to lay it up on hole number two, and you got left foot location, middle location, downright hole location, where are you going to land on the ball? Where are you going to use to spin there? The place is a masterpiece and there’s so many reasons for the fact that it is a masterpiece. We could argue between us, whatever we think it’s a putting course or a ball hitting course, but it really makes you deliver all the goods to play well there. 

I love sitting with the old caddies especially from back in the day, they talk about, what we would call big picture topography; how everything gets to a point and rate Rae’s Creek down by hole number 11. It’s not actually just the Rae’s Creek. It’s a little spot in the pump house where they think things break too. Whether you believe in that and completely stuck on any point, or you don’t think that matters or not, the ball is definitely moving down towards that way. When you’re hitting shot stuff, see if the wind is going, or you got to be thinking about that. So I liken the prep work through the week; they do a great job with their driving range, or when you’re out playing your practice rounds, kind of figure out where do I have to hit my ball in order to let it matriculate or manifest down towards the hole. Which is almost different than any other venue that we go to because you can use the land, slopes and wind so nicely there to your advantage. It can also make you look really bad if you miss one of those slopes.

Cordie: Chris, when you and Matt go this week, are you guys pretty dialed in on strategy? Matt obviously has a great track record there over the years of so many finishes. Are you guys pretty dialed in on strategy, knowing what clubs are going to be hit off tees, aim points into greens? Are you pretty conservative or more aggressive? 

Chris: That wouldn’t change a whole lot. That would only change if the course were cold or soft, Matt’s going to struggle to reach to par fives. If it’s firm and warm, he’s fine. Now he’s going to be hitting more club in there than other guys. When you saw Zach Johnson, win there it was really, really cold. Zach couldn’t get to the par five, so he had to really rely on his short game. Other guys that could get there had to hit so much club into those holes that they weren’t as offensive holes as normal. That year the score was a pretty high winning score. Matt’s wedge game is important, especially there, if it’s soft and it’s playing long, but if  it’s firm, Matt Kuchar is not going to be hitting a lot of wedges around there, because the par fives he’ll be on the green or chipping, and the par fours are too long for him to where he would get wedges. Wedge game is important for him, I would say the longer that that golf course plays, because it comes into play on them on the par five. Bryson DeChambeau’s wedge game is going to be important no matter what, because he’s going to have to start thinking about the club, not just Bryson, Rory, Dustin Johnson, Brooks. You can go on and on how Bryson has changed his game, but a lot of talk about how Bryce has changed the game, that style of play has been going on for a long time. Hitting drivers as far as we can get a shorter club as we can get in, but you start thinking about the clubs that he will be hitting in or those other guys, if they choose to hit driver and 11 is a it’s over 500 yards. Kuchar, a lot of times is coming in there with the hybrid. It helped those guys, Bryson hit some kind of wedge into 11. There’s not going to be any long holes out there for Bryson or Rory or DJ, if it’s warm and firm. 

Cordie: What about you Jamie? With Patrick and looking at strategy, is it a ton of drivers hitting as far as possible, or looking at attacking every pin or more conservative into greens? Any thoughts or prep on strategy?

Jaime: I think you could get Chris, Jeff and I to agree – with what Chris said, while we might disagree with some things, everybody’s been hitting it far for a long time and have been trying to hit it far for a long time. The interesting thing about Augusta, if you look historically, it’s favored a lot of players, Mike Weir didn’t bomb it, Crenshaw didn’t bomb it, Zack didn’t bomb it, max played unbelievably around there. 

I think it’s putting it in the right spot. I think Patrick’s got a really good look at it. He was a low amateur a year and a half ago, and we barely made the cut, then got in the cut on the number, and then you have to keep tied the low score on the weekend or close to the low score on the weekend. We had a really good chance to win and coming down the stretch. I think he sees it the right way, and the one thing, if you’re much like the iron shots, if you’re using the slugs and you’re using the land and losing, using the wind the right way, you’re turning 300 yard carry a lot of times into 330 and 340 yard carry. And then there’s some holes where you just got to hit it straight out there. For me, sevens changed almost as much as any hole lot there. I saw livestock the first time I was out there, almost driving in the green side bunker. Then you’re back on that whole, sometimes sitting in five, six, seven, eight iron into that hole and it doesn’t matter how far you hit it.

If Bryson’s going to go ahead and take a swing at that one and try to hit it on the green, it better be a really good one. I can’t imagine you being able to do that four holes in a row. We have our lines, we have the lines in our head picked out really well. We have our lines on our head picked out on how fast it goes and what the wind does. Our caddy does a really nice job at figuring out how the lines move over based on the circumstances, so we’re ready with the driver.

Chris: I agree with what Jeff said. With Augusta being a second shot golf course, I think guys that have won there have been great iron players. I think Tiger Woods is probably the greatest iron player in the history of the game. I think Augusta is where you play aggressive off the tee, then I think he turned around and I think he played more conservative into the green. That’s why it’s an interesting golf course. A great iron shot at Augusta, a lot of times, doesn’t mean you’re close to the hole, it means you hit it to the right spot on the green.

Jeff: Yep. I would, I would agree with that. I think we’re all kind of anticipating to see what Bryson does with taking some of those lines. I’ve already played the golf course in my head thinking about 200 ball speed and where I would hit it on certain holes. I’m curious, and we’re all excited to see those lines, but at the end of the day, you still have to make the punch. You still have to play ball position. He’s got to play really well to win there. 

Cordie: Jeff, I saw the other day that you had Victor getting his club head speed up there and some pretty big changes. Is that off of that Bryson wave, and have you guys thought about, or talked with players at all about gaining speed?

Jeff: For Viktor,  It really had nothing to do with Bryson. As I started to work with him and evaluate him as an athlete, I saw someone who statistically was leaving a lot on the table. Viktor’s an incredible ball striker; always has been since youth. He was doing a lot of things to put a governor on his speed. Viktor is a great athlete. He’s very fast twitch, he’s strong, and he has the capability of swinging very, very fast. In fact, you have Bryson going 48, Viktor was doing things like, playing an inch short driver. So there were some things like that, that were no brainers in the beginning, let’s test it, Let’s see. 

Can we still be a world-class driver of the ball being as accurate as he is? I mean, hitting over 65% of his fairways, but just push it down the fairway a little bit further, because I thought that it would definitely change his game as a player, because he’s a great iron player and a great driver. If I could give you a few more shorter irons, wedges kind of things in his hand, then I think it would give him an even a bigger, tee to green. We weren’t really trying to chase a Bryson thing. Like Chris said, speed has been a differentiator since the beginning of golf and I’ve always tried to get all of my players to hit it far. I think you just see more of an emphasis now on guys working on their body, training, making sure that their equipment is dialed in to match.

There’s a lot of reason why coaches understand how to generate force and speed now, like they never had before, and you’ve got these great athletes in front of you that can do this stuff. I see it now 180 ball speed is like the new 165 ball speed. I’ve got 15 kids under 18 years old with 180 ball speed – some of them at 190 ball speed, equipment doesn’t have a lot to do with that. It’s the type of athlete and how they’re producing force now. That’s my 2 cents on the, on the Bryson thing,

Jaime: Cordie, it would be really interesting to take the players from every generation, and look at their body types, look at how they compared to what players look like now. We played a practice round on Tuesday, at Sherwood with Jeff’s guy, Viktor. He’s an impressive athlete – when you get close to him and realize, the kid is as fit as can be, he’s making a bunch of speed, the way he walks he looks like you could make him a shortstop if you want it to, or if you had to play college football, you can make him into a free safety. He looks like an athlete and they all do. There’s different ways to go about getting speed, think of what’s going on in our world with the physios, trainers and the gym world and what they’re doing. I know what our guys are doing, so I don’t think that’s going to change and it makes me proud watching it, and that we become more athletic than anybody thought that we were ever going to be.

Cordie: Chris, what’s your take on this? Obviously, Matt being of a little bit older of a generation, than Viktor and Patrick? Have you guys talked about speed at all, and has that ever come up in the last six months? 

Chris: Yeah, I would love for, Jeff said 180 is the new 165, I’d love to see Matt Kuchar 180. Now if I could get 180, I might quit teaching. Kuchar is 42 now, so he was right as Tiger was coming on. I can remember being at Augusta when Tiger was an amateur and all the stories about Tiger hitting nine Ironman 15 and this and that. He was hitting a 43 and a half inch steel driver and it was just crazy, the places he was hitting it. I think that had a big influence on kids growing up and seeing how far they could hit it. I think a launch monitors have had a huge issue; there’s nothing like swinging and getting feedback to was that faster or not and it motivates kids it’s a scoreboard. 

We have worked on getting Kuchar more distance. Probably eight years ago, we started looking at it and I think Matt hits it further than he’s ever hit it, but everybody else has gotten longer. We realized that for him to have more chances to win and for him to extend his career, he needed more distance. He’s probably above a 110 guy. We’ve gotten him up to 115 before and itfeels out of control to him. I said, it should feel out of control to you, but his game revolves so much around precision and control that he has not felt comfortable to date trying to put that into play. 

Jaime: He can give you like 50 or 60 million reasons why precision’s been pretty important for him too. 

Chris: It was pretty interesting. It was last week at Sherwood, they got five par fives there and one of them everybody’s kind of handcuffed because the fairway runs out. I think it’s a 13, but the other ones, you know, Matt will hit a drive, say 280. He’s coming in there with a three wood – he’s got 260 coming in there, and at the end of the week. He said, I felt like I played pretty good golf. I did not play the par fives very well. I said, I felt like I played pretty good golf and I finished 45th or whatever. And I was talking to him about the par fives. To which I said, “imagine if you had say, 20 yards, if you were coming in there instead of 250, are coming in there 230.” On that particular course, 15, 20 yards or 40 yards makes a huge difference. There are certain courses that  benefit certain players, but as Jamie’s saying, when you play a tournament, you have do everything well. 

The beauty of golf is that it’s not just one skill. There are so many skills involved. Maybe as a shorter hitter, you’re giving up after the tee shot, you’re at a disadvantage, but then, I’ll take Matt Kuchar from that point forward all the way to the hole over most players. There are certain holes, and certain courses where an average length hitter is given up yardage. 

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FINAL PREP FOR THE WEEK LEADING INTO AUGUSTA

Cordie: Let’s wrap up. The best week of the year comes in November this year, who knew, what are you doing? What are the keys for a good warmup? So a player feels that security going into the round that they’ve done everything they can to prepare themselves when they step on that first.

Chris : Well, I think Jamie’s got to figure it out, get your guy to win the month leading into the tournament. So I need to figure that strategy out. I think obviously going into the week in good form, takes away a lot of stress trying to find your game at a major any week. Trying to find your game is not the ideal scenario, but I think in the warmup, going through certain tee shots, painting a picture of, can’t miss left here, can’t miss right here, some tee shots it would be uncomfortable. 

For Matt, it would be: I’m going to hit, I’m going to work on a couple of draws, but I don’t want to overdraw it. We don’t work a lot in terms of a shift on the range, we would work on shots, tee shots, avoiding one side of the other, not so much approach shots, but 12 at Augusta is a different story. We’re always talking about that hole and Matt likes to fade it. Which I think that’s very dangerous on that hole. I think you need to play that hole to the right over the bunker front edge of that green, right over that bunker and hit it straight or try and hook it no matter where the pin is, because the way that green’s set up: long lefts, terrible and short writes terrible, and that’s your miss pattern for a right-handed golfer. People think they’ve got an eight or nine or they think it’s a birdie hole, it’s not. It’s a potential disaster hole. So we’ll work on that, we’ll paint a picture and no matter where the pin is trying to get him, he’s going to hit it here or left,

Cordie: So a lot of visualization like working through shots on the range, just testing it out. 

Chris: Yep.

Jaime: We’re going to keep running the movie that we were talking about. We’ve been painting the movie for this guy for a long, long time. He knows what it looks like. He knows what it feels like. As Jeff and Chris can attest, that we’re on the minute in our business, meaning I’m sure when Aaron Wise is going to go warm up, Jeff knows what time he’s going to walk out onto the putting green or the driving range. I know what Patrick will do the whole week; we will set up camp, stay in a place that we know that’s familiar. It’s one of the weeks when our whole team will stay together, when we’re away from the golf course, we’ll try to make it loose and easy and have fun and not worry about golf too much. Then when we get there, we’ll kind of go through our whole system and be adaptable.

I think that stress for everybody is not knowing the outcome of what’s going to happen. Our job is to eliminate all the pictures of that stress. If something does come up stressful, to go back into our bubble and make it really, really low key and figure out how we want it to be. At the end of one day, I remember sitting in the locker room with a veteran player one time – we were getting ready to go out and walk down. I said, “man, it’s so nice be here”, then he said, “when you’re here, you feel like you’ve done something, right. You know, this is the spot”.  That resonates completely, we know we’ve done something right to be there. And the object is to be there all the time.

So we’re looking forward to having a great week at that iconic, special place. Nobody runs the golf tournament like the master. They do pretty tremendous with a bunch of people there. It’s going to be really interesting and intriguing to see what they’d do with just the coaches and our bubble there. We’re really looking forward to it. 

Chris : It is a special week; they leave no stone unturned there. There’s a thousand things they think about. One of them that nobody talks about, and that I didn’t know about but the pins on the green are actually made out of steel, because if it happens to be a windy day, they don’t want the flags flopping all over the place. It’s just little details like that, and when you add up all those little details, you really know that this is a special week and like Jamie said “done something, right if you’re there”. I think everybody, the energy of that place is great because everybody is excited to be there, and feels very, very blessed to be there during that week.

Cordie: It seems like the perfect place to wrap this conversation. Thank you guys so much for hanging out with us and sharing some insights and getting ready for the masters week. We appreciate your time. And I hope everybody enjoys this week. It’s one of the best of the year. That’s for sure. So thanks for hanging out. Thank you to CDW for presenting this conversation.

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Founder and chief curator of the Golf Science Lab. Documenting what's going on in the world of research and beyond that can help you play your best golf on the golf course (when it counts). Join the movement of researched based coaching over trusting beliefs and what worked for one person a few decades ago. Follow on Twitter