How this pro contends as one of the shortest-hitting players in the field
Welcome to Teachable Moments, GOLF’s weekly instruction column that will help you improve your game through the excellence and expertise of the Tour stars of the week. Class is now in session.
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Lizette Salas had a tremendous week at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship where she finished runner-up to Nelly Korda. The result matched her career-best in majors and was a slump-busting performance for the LPGA vet.
Perhaps the most impressive element of her week at Atlanta Athletic Club was her ability to keep up with Korda — the hottest player on the planet and newly minted world No. 1 — despite being at a distinct distance disadvantage. Korda averages 273 yards off the tee for the 2021 season. Salas lags well behind at just 244 yards per drive.
Going blow for blow with the eventual champ when she’s in peak form is impressive no doubt, but when you consider that Salas was hitting hybrids and woods into greens while Korda had wedges and short irons in hand, it’s an even greater feat.
Distance may be king in the modern era, but Salas proved that there is room still for short-hitting finesse. During one of her media availabilities, I asked Salas what her keys were for competing as a short-hitter, and her answers can be of use to golfers of every skill level.
Putt for dough
If you can’t bomb the ball down the fairway, you better be handy on the greens. Salas proved as much last week as she made several long putts for birdie that allowed her to match Korda.
“I can putt,” Salas said. “Just get me on the green and we can work from there. That’s pretty much the game plan.”
When distance isn’t your game, you can still make up strokes on the greens, so get comfortable with the flatstick.
Long clubs are your friend
Sticking short irons and wedges close to the pin is always fun, but when you don’t get a chance to hit those clubs, your practice time can be better utilized by getting comfortable with your hybrids and woods.
“I’m really comfortable with my fairway woods and my hybrids,” Salas said.
Focus your practice sessions on these clubs — you’ll hit them many times as a short hitter.
Be confident in your game
It’s easy to get intimidated by longer-bombing competitors, but if you hope to compete, you can’t let their distance get to your head.
Salas shared a story of when she squared off with big-hitting Anne van Dam in the Solheim Cup. Van Dam consistently outdrove Salas, but she didn’t allow that to be a mental advantage for her opponent.
“She’s the longest hitter on Tour, and I just said, ‘I’ll meet you up there and we can battle from there,'” Salas said. “I’m not at all intimidated by length, I just know I can compete out here.”