Tom Patri: Even the PGA champion at Kiawah Island this week will have only survived

TOM PATRI

The more I watch this game at all levels — be it the club championship or the U.S. Open — the more fragile it seems it is to me. At the highest level, the difference between a year that defines a career, and one that could send you into a spiral could be just one or two swings apart.

Take Jim Furyk this year. Take back a hooked drive with two to play at Olympic, and a pushed iron this week at the Bridgestone Invitational, and he adds a second Open and a WGC to his Tour Championship. That combination of events places his already wonderful career into a special place in golf history.

On the other side of the coin, his two misfortunes catapulted both Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley up a big rung on their respective ladders in the world of golf's elite.

Furyk, a normally cool customer, flinched twice this year at wrong moments and in both cases opened what seemed like a shut door for two young guns who seized the opportunity when history called, and stepped up big-time.

This week, our last major of the year, the PGA Championship, is played at the monster called Kiawah Island. It has historically embarrassed many of the world's elite when conditions get nasty. If the wind blows like it can on the South Carolina coast, things could prove to get a bit wild this weekend. The ability to flight one's trajectory as well as remain extremely patient could prove the recipe not to win the PGA, but in fact survive it.

Tiger is 0-3 for majors this year. Will this be the breakthrough major, or will there be a big surprise breakthrough? I have to tell you, I haven't got a clue on this one. I will tell you this: I have a strange feeling whomever leaves with the Wanamaker Trophy as PGA champion they will have endured, but Kiawah Island will have defeated all comers.

TP’s Tip: I call the transition, that is, when the backswing ends and the downswing begins, “the fork in the road.”

This is the moment when most players try to add a little something to their effort, and destroy the very fragile sequence that leads to impact. Remember, the road to impact is a very gradual increase in speed, never a sudden burst.

I have enjoyed using the Orange Whip Swing Trainer for this very reason. It is a wonderful tempo tool, and any of you fast cats should run out and grab one for yourself. When you swing the Orange Whip, try to minimize the amount of flex you feel in the shaft in transition. The quieter you can make the bend in the Orange Whip in transition, the easier it will be for you to sequence the arm swing and the unwinding of the body.

Someone once said that “practice makes perfect. That’s incorrect. In fact, perfect practice makes perfect. You first need to statistically chart your golf rounds to truly understand your weakness, and then organize by time percentage what areas of your game need the most attention.

Tom Patri gives lessons at the Quarry on Immokalee Road, and is at Friar's Head in New York from May-December. Patri is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher. Visit Patri's website at www.tompatri.com, www.facebook.com/TomPatri or email him at tpatri@mindspring.com.

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