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Golf tips from the PGA Tour pros

At Deutsche Bank Championship, golfers dole out advice

Matt Kuchar  is one of the best in the PGA at playing out of a bunker.

Nathan Denette/CP/AP

Matt Kuchar is one of the best in the PGA at playing out of a bunker.

Once again this season, we’ve passed along weekly golf tips from some of the best club professionals in the area. With the Deutsche Bank Championship in town this week, we asked some of the top PGA Tour professionals in specific statistical categories to talk about that area of their game, how they’ve improved it, and what tip or drill they would suggest for amateurs.

ZACH JOHNSON

Driving accuracy (Rank: 11th, 68.28 percent)

“More years than not, I’m top 10 in driving accuracy. The driver is one of the most important clubs in the bag. I think if anything, outside of my putter, it is my most important club, because I have to hit the ball in the fairway, I don’t have that 300-yard drive that I can pull out. Fairways are a premium, I’m focused on it. If you’re going to look at specifics and numbers, percentages and that sort of thing — I don’t, but my team does — but if you go down your golf bag, you use your putter every hole, you use your wedges more than you use your mid-irons, you use your mid-irons more than long irons, but you use your driver a lot, so therefore your practice should be situated as such, and that’s how I go about it.”

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Johnson’s tip: “Having instruction is key, somebody you trust, and having one shot you can go to is essential.” Johnson, aware that a certain equipment company is based in Fairhaven, offered one more tip: “Play Titleist.”

ROBERT GARRIGUS

Driving distance (Rank: Tie-7, 302.1 yards)

“I’ve always been longer than everybody until I got out here. Bubba [Watson] hits it a little farther, Dustin Johnson hits it pretty far. I can keep up with them if I want to, but it usually never goes that straight, so I don’t try. I’ve always been able to hit it far just because I started swinging hard when I was younger, and built that stretch and that length in my swing. I actually watched tape of Fred Couples when I was 13 years old and tried to emulate his golf swing, tried to get that lag and that length in my swing. Also, I swung a triple-extra-stiff shaft with a small, tiny, metal head when I was 13 years old and had no business hitting it. Plus, I’ve got some good genes to where I’ve got [clubhead] speed, and you can’t really teach that, you can’t really work for that, either. I can swing it 120 miles an hour still and I’m 35 years old. It’s something I’ve been blessed with and always had, and I’ve been able to use it to my advantage.”

Garrigus’s tip: “Make sure you stretch before you play, and widen your stance just a little if you want to get more distance off the tee. If you’re a little wider, you’ll be able to swing it a little faster, and that’s what makes the ball travel farther.”

KEVIN CHAPPELL

Proximity to hole from 50-125 yards (Rank, Tie-1 15 feet, 2 inches)

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“It’s definitely been a focus, working with my team, fine-tuning the direction and then the distance control. I’ll find my yardages every week from the ranges. I put out cones from 40 to 150 yards and just hit shots to the cones, so I can account for turf or altitude. With some hard work and smart work, [success from those distances] has built with confidence. Now I don’t feel like I’ve got to go at every par 5; I can lay up and really use my wedge play to my advantage.”

Chappell’s tip: “I work on a clock system: I have a 7:30 position so my hands are about pocket high and the club is slightly hinged; I have a 9 o’clock position where my arms are parallel to the ground; and then I have a full position. So I have a number for each club and each position. If you told 99 percent of the tour players out here to hit a full 7-iron, then take 5 yards off it, they could probably do it. I have three options to take or add yardage from three positions. I would suggest trying that.”

MATT KUCHAR

Sand saves (Rank, 2nd: 66.41 percent)

“No matter what you’re doing, there’s so much room to always get better. I’ve enjoyed the bunker facet. There’s so many different shots, whether it be long shots, short shots, or just your standard ones. In the bunker category, a lot of that percentage is putting; I think you find the better putters will have a higher sand save percentage, making the 5-footers, the 10-footers. A lot will be leaving it in the right spot if you miss it. If you’re in a bunker on the wrong side of a pin on the wrong side of the green, you’re not getting up and down, no matter how good of a bunker player you are. There are certain greenside bunkers that you go, ‘Hey, that’s an easy up-and-down from that bunker,’ so there’s definitely some course management involved. But technique is important in a bunker. I don’t know that many guys, even on tour, that are all that sharp as far as technique is concerned.”

Kuchar’s tip: “It requires a lot of speed. I think anybody that has a short backswing in a bunker doesn’t stand much chance. You’ve got to have a big backswing, and try to use a lot of speed to hit good bunker shots. Think about John Daly in a bunker. You want a big backswing, longer than you think you need.”

BOB ESTES

Scrambling (Rank 1st 66.33 percent)

“It’s always been a strength of my game. I’ve always had one of the best short games in the world, that’s why I’m still on tour. I’ve never hit the ball as well as I am right now, but up until this point I’ve had to have a good short game to survive. I’m hoping to hit more fairways and greens, but when I miss one, I’ve got lots of shots and can use all different clubs. Not only am I really good at getting the ball up and down, I’m usually really good at picking the right shot and the right club to play that shot with to give myself the best chance to get it close to the hole. That’s 40-something years of practice, and I have great touch and feel. I’m just focused on executing the shot, I’m not thinking about anything else. I’m not thinking about the putt until after I see what I’ve got left, and sometimes you chip it in, sometimes you don’t have to putt.”

Estes’s tip: “Spend a lot of time around the green, hitting different shots with different clubs. The best thing to do is just experiment. My buddies in college used to play up-and-down games with me, pick a spot and alternate. That was fun, and you were also getting better.”

FREDRIK JACOBSON

Putts made inside 3 feet (Rank: Tie-1 100 percent)

“I think most guys on tour are good inside 3 feet, but you’ll miss a couple in a year,” said Jacobson, one of five players who has been perfect from that distance this season, making all 475 of his putts from 3 feet and in. When reminded that he hasn’t missed one, Jacobson quipped, “But we’re not done yet. You’ll always misread one or hit a spike mark, or mis-hit one. I’m sure I’ve missed some. Those stats, you can’t trust them fully, sometimes they have you down for a putt that’s shorter or longer. But if you can be good inside 5 feet, that can keep your scorecard clean, that’s a huge advantage out here. I’ve always liked putting. I like reading greens, I like hitting putts. Always have.”

Jacobson’s tip: “I sometimes think that reading greens doesn’t get the importance it should, but reading greens and having the right pace are always key for good putting, because that means you’re repeating it. I work a lot on starting the ball on the right line, and I have a putting tool where I can see that I hit it correctly, because if I miss it a little bit it’ll hit something that I place in front of the ball, like two tees. That way you get instant feedback, you can start to feel what’s going on, so you can self-correct. I’ve always had a hard time with the golf swing to self-correct, but anything that you can fix yourself I think is pretty nice, that’s a good way to practice.”

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