In honor of Golf Tips Top 25 Instructor Rob Labritz’s sixth trip to the PGA Championship this week, I’m honored and proud to share my semi-regular blog with him during tournament week. The New Yorker, who’s the Director of Golf at Glenarbor Golf Club in Pound Ridge, is gearing up for a “home game” in front of family and friends just 45 minutes from where he lives and works. Every day he’s in mix he’ll provide a PGA Championship diary of his experience on and around Bethpage Black. Rob reports after shooting a third round 74, setting him up for a go-for-broke final round at Bethpage Black.
DAY SIX: ROUND THREE
It was a tough day — one of those days where I just didn’t hit enough fairways.
When I teed off early on No. 1, the wind was blowing right into us. I made bogey there — hit a good drive down the middle, but it didn’t carry the tree [on the right], which I thought it would. I had a tough lie. I missed the fairway on No. 2, actually had a nice little six-footer for par and lipped out.
On No. 10, I hit it right into the thick stuff, then tried to get it out of there and put it in a bunker. I still had 195 yards to the green. I hit a really good 5-iron, a little cut shot that hit the top edge of the bunker and rolled down — and couldn’t get it up and down. That was the one sort of mistake I made today.
On 15 I made a great par, missed the fairway, had to chip out and got up and down from the fairway, 105 yards. I had a good look on 16 for birdie, just lipped out. I had a good look on 18 for birdie, but again it lipped out.
I didn’t play too bad today, hit some good shots. But when you hit in the rough here, you’re just done. It goes to the bottom and you can’t get it out. But then again, I played pretty solid.
They tucked all the pins. Everything was like three yards from the side of the green. Where they stick the pins is the whole defense of the golf course. If you’re going at the flag and miss it on the short side, you’re gonna have some problems getting it up and down.
But the premium is on driving. If you put it in the fairway, you’re gonna hit greens.
I don’t agree with some criticism from other players that the course is playing too long, that you’ve gotta be a buster — yeah, if you’re a buster you have an advantage because you can hit it over stuff. If you hit it longer and straighter, you’re gonna have a shorter iron in. For instance, I watched Brooks hit into No. 5 with a 9-iron. I hit hybrid. There’s the difference; you can stick a 9-iron to a foot, but with a hybrid it’s 20 feet.
Sure the wind changes, and that makes it challenging, but it’s a fair test of golf. You’ve just gotta hit it good, and you gotta hit the greens. Period.
The crowds were times ten today of what they’ve been earlier in the week. It was awesome. I didn’t want the round to end, it was such a cool experience. So many New Yorkers behind me, myself being a New Yorker. It’s just incredible. I wish I could play every tournament like this. There’s New Jersey people out there, New York, Pennsylvania. New Jerseyers are the loudest. Talking to the tour pros, they’re all, “Wow, you can really feel the energy out there.” So it’s really cool.
I see members from my club every day, and every day there’s somebody new. We gain new fans by just being a New Yorker — throwing balls to people, talking to them, getting them engaged. I was playing with Cory Connors, and he was saying how much fun it was coming up the 18th because all the fans were behind me, cheering me on. I’m walking up the fairway, slapping high-fives, throwing tees and balls, making eye contact. I love this. Anytime I can get fans behind me, and loving being there, that’s what I live for.
I went for the flags and tried to go low today. It’s just one of those things — if you miss the fairway, you can’t get to the flags. Tomorrow I’m gonna go really low, aim at every flag. Hopefully I hit a lot of fairways; I did a lot of work with the driver and 3-wood this afternoon, just to kind of tie in my target lines a little bit better. I want to shoot under par tomorrow. That’s my goal.
I’ve been seeing a lot of my students out there. They see how hard the golf course is. They see how demanding it is to hit the ball in the fairway, and once you get it there — say, it’s a 495-yard par 4 into the wind — how demanding it is to get it on the green and make birdie. So what you have to do is tell everybody to be patient. Take one shot at a time. You can’t think about any outcome, or you’re done. You just have to get out there and play your game, and hit good, solid shots.
When Tour players get out there, and the way I train myself, you just don’t think about outcomes. You’re just trying to hit a shot. That’s it.
If you envision the outcome being extremely good, hopefully you can pull it off — that’s what we call visualization. Man, it’s out there for the taking, if you strike the ball well.
Clearly Brooks shot a solid even-par round. He’s going for his fourth major, he’s got a nice little cushion — if he stays aggressive he should take the title home.
But me? If I can shoot in the 60s tomorrow, I’ll be much happier heading home. And it’ll be fun experiencing this place again in July, for the state open, when all the grandstands are down. It’ll be different, that’s for sure.