‘Cautiously Aggressive’: Why you should aim for the middle of the green

FORT WORTH, TEXAS - MAY 23: Boo Weekley of the United States plays a shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club on May 23, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Three-time PGA TOUR Winner (and noteworthy orator) Boo Weekley once made a statement that immediately settled with me, and remains etched in my memory.  In fact, when giving playing lessons, I typically use it as course-management and decision-making advice, no matter the skill of the player.

Boo’s statement was: “The middle of the green never moves.”

At first glance his observation may appear simplistic, but if you delve into it you can mine a few course-management nuggets that are sure to remove big numbers from your scorecard.

In a recent “On the Mark” podcast I asked him about his remark and he doubled down on his belief.  He added to it with the observation that a ball that is right in the middle of the green will usually leave a putt of nothing longer that 30 feet or so.  

Essentially, if Weekley hit the ball into the middle of every green in a round of golf he would have 18 birdie attempts from inside 30 feet.  In short, the probability of him shooting under par is heightened significantly as bogeys and others are avoided. 

Boo “walks his talk” as well.  He is perennially in the upper reaches of the PGA TOUR Greens in Regulation statistic.  (At the time of writing he was ranked second on the PGA TOUR hitting 75% of his targets in regulation.) 

FORT WORTH, TEXAS - MAY 23: Boo Weekley of the United States plays a shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club on May 23, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Boo Weekley

From my experiences as a PGA TOUR on-course announcer I can assure you that it is not only Boo who adopts this approach.  

A memory that springs to mind is when I covered Dustin Johnson for the first two rounds of the 2017 Genesis Open at Riviera.  He shot the two most stress-free 66’s I think I have ever seen.  It appeared to me that he never “short-sided” himself and as a result never really put any pressure on his short-game.

Scott Fawcett of DECADE confirmed my suspicions.

Scott’s research showed that DJ hit his approach shot toward the “safe side” of the flag 78 percent of the time — this includes greens missed in regulation.  In fact, he only hit 15 shots on the short-side of the flag, and four of those were from outside 240 yards. 

Consider that for a moment…

If you still don’t believe me (because TV shows the best golfers in the world hitting the ball close to the target so often) I want to challenge you to count how many times you hear any  caddy issue the following marching order (or some variation thereof): 

Dustin Johnson is a green-hitting machine.

“At the TV Tower.”

In case you miss the deeper meaning in this, all TV Towers are typically situated right behind the middle of the green.  

Fundamentally, any player in contention is aiming the ball at the center of the green and working it toward the flag.  I call this course management approach Cautiously Aggressive. If you take on the middle of the green the worst you will get is a putt, a routine chip or a basic bunker shot.  Birdie becomes a heightened possibility; Par is largely a guarantee, and Bogey or worse is mitigated.

All you have to do is sharpen up your lag putting and this approach is all but guaranteed to litter your scorecards with 3’s and 4’s.

Go ahead, try it. Aim at the center of every green the next time you play. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised.

Onwards and upwards.

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