What you can learn from Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy’s week at Torrey Pines

patrick reed and rory mcilroy

Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy became entangled in controversy at Torrey Pines, but you can learn a lot from more than just the rules fiasco in San Diego.

Getty Images

Last week’s Farmers Insurance Open was eventful to say the least. The tournament opened with glorious weather and the stellar field shredding the North Course and obliterating par, while carnage arrived on Friday with wind, rain and hail battering the players.

Then came the Patrick Reed rules controversy on Saturday, which captivated the entire golf world. Eventually, on the heels of some super putting and nifty short-game skills, Reed broke away from the pack and cruised to a five-stroke victory and his 10th PGA Tour title.

As always there was many lessons to be learned from some of the Tour’s best.

What you can learn from Patrick Reed

In my opinion Reed has the best all-around short game in the business. This talent around the greens was on full display last week as Reed averaged 26.25 putts per round (tying a tournament record) en route to his 14-under par total.

Having called his play for a couple of rounds I can vouch for some incredible putting on what can be extremely challenging greens. I do however want to point out that all of his one-putts and greenside saves were largely the function of some pin-point chipping and pitching.

I have long been a proponent of getting good at “Shot No. 3,” as competence in this area will lead to many 3’s and 4’s and a lot of low scores. Reed is emblematic of this truth and there is something we can emulate in his greenside play.

Be creative with how you hold the club and how you address the ball around the greens. In short, do not be afraid to alter the length and lie of the club by where you hold it on the grip handle. Also, experiment with ball position, stance width and pressure placement between the feet.

patrick Reed
Patrick Reed can change his image, but first he must find his voice
By: Dylan Dethier

Reed is super creative around the greens and it is unlikely you will see him play any two shots the same way. He will sometimes nestle into the ball, hold well down the grip, stand the shaft more upright and clip a pitch away with minimal wrist action. Other times you may see him hold near the top of the handle, flatten the shaft at address, widen his stance and pitch the ball with a more floating trajectory.

In other words, he hits a number of different shots as a product of altering pre-shot variables.

My lesson to you is to think wider than just opening and closing the face at address. Experiment with moving up and down the grip, moving the ball position forward and backward in the stance, widening and narrowing the stance and moving the distance of the ball closer and farther away from you. Doing this will create the palette for a plethora of different shots, a lot of fun around the greens, more saves and lower scores.

If nothing else, just toy with holding the club at different lengths and lies with different stance widths. Watch Reed the next time you see him play — he is very much like Seve Ballesteros.  Seve frequently employed a narrow stance and gripped down the club, and he was one of the best of all time.

What you can learn from Rory McIlroy

Entering the week, Rory McIlroy spoke of his home practice regimen and he mentioned that he oftentimes plays “worst ball” when out on the course. He grinned when he shared that if he could shoot under par playing “worst ball” he knew his game was in pretty good shape.

I contend that, at its essence, golf is a game of recovery. It’s all but a guarantee that your round will include a few periods of headwind and adversity. Even if you are playing well there are going to be times in the round that you will have to make a save or two to maintain momentum and salvage the score.

Playing a game like “worst ball” will get you into that grinding, focusing and game-management mindset. 

Playing “worst ball” is straightforward. You basically play a two-ball scramble by yourself, but instead of selecting the best shot, you always select the worst of the two options. So, hit two shots each time, pick the worst one and proceed. It can be time consuming, but trust me, it will usher in a strong attitude, smart decision making, better shot selection and, most importantly, an approach based in a recovery mindset.

Golf.com Contributor

On-course announcer and analyst Mark Immelman is passionate about the game of golf. As a decorated instructor, award-winning NCAA college golf coach, and an accomplished golfer, Mark brings a robust knowledge and vast experience to his role as a television broadcaster and golf instructor. He is currently a Golf Analyst for CBS Sports HQ, and an Analyst and On-course Announcer for CBS Sports and Golf on CBS. He currently also serves as a Studio Analyst and an On-course Announcer for PGA TOUR Live  for PGA TOUR Live.

The older brother to 2008 Masters Champion, Trevor Immelman, Mark grew up in Somerset West, South Africa. After a successful amateur career in South Africa he was offered a golf scholarship to Columbus State University (Columbus , GA). He enjoyed a prolific collegiate tenure highlighted by his four-time All-America selections, two-time Academic All-America awards, and two NCAA Div. II National Championship victories. After graduation, Mark had a short season as a playing professional, but quickly turned his attention to his true passion – golf teaching.

As a golf instructor, Mark believes in cultivating ability and talent by providing comprehensive, holistic golf instruction that is easily understandable and of the highest quality to golfers of all abilities and skill levels. His passionate approach and keen knowledge of the game have led to him being a sought-after mind by leading Professional and Amateur golfers alike. Through his career he has taught and/or consulted to PGA TOUR and European Tour professionals and tournament winners such as: Larry Mize, Loren Roberts, Trevor Immelman, Scott Brown, Patton Kizzire, Louis Oosthuizen and Will Wilcox. He has been recognized as one of “Golf Digest’s Top 20 Instructors Under 40”, Golf Digest’s “Best Teachers in the State of Georgia” and Georgia Trend Magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40 – Georgia’s Best and Brightest”.

As a NCAA College Coach at Columbus State University (since 2001) Mark continues to coach the Columbus State Men’s Golf Team and his program is a perennial contender for Conference and National Titles. He is a two-time NCAA Div. II Atlantic/Southeast Region Coach of the Year, two-time Peachbelt Conference Coach of the Year, and the 2009 NCAA Div. II National Coach of the Year.

In 2019 Mark was selected as Captain and Coach of the (Arnold) Palmer Cup International Team. His team triumphed over the United States Team in the Palmer Cup Matches held at The Alotian Club outside of Little Rock, AR.

Mark’s additional broadcast duties include being a guest analyst on the CBS Sports “First Cut Podcast”. CBS Sports also uses Mark’s unique voice for audio and promotional PGA TOUR advertisements and promotional reads.

He has also served a 6-year tenure as a Play-by-Play Announcer for Sirius/XM PGA TOUR Radio.

Additionally, Mark hosts “On the Mark”, a PGA TOUR Podcast, which to date has been downloaded more than 3 million times in more than 125 countries.

He has also written golf instructional columns and articles for Golf Digest SA, Golf Digest USA and is currently penning instructional pieces for Golf Magazine. As an author, Mark has published two e-Books on golf instruction: “Scandalously SImple – The Easy Way to Accurate Golf Shots” and “Golf is a Game of Recovery”.

You can learn more about at MarkImmelman.com