After watching all four days of the Players Championship on the PGA Tour, I can't help but see more similarities between pitching and golf. Tiger Woods closed the deal and clinched the tournament title and I wanted to write a little about how he got it done.
Tiger managed the course brilliantly. He avoided the big miss off the tee by using his 3 and 5 wood instead of the driver. On his approach shots he consistently hit greens in safer spots than the rest of the field. He gave himself good looks at the cup by understanding what part of the green would give him the best chance to hit the putt. Then he finished the deal when it came time to knock it down.
Woods hitting a controlled 3 or 5 wood off the tee box and shaping shots instead of blasting a driver every time was an example of him choosing Lokation over power and distance. It reminded me of a pitcher who hits Lokations at 90% velocity and knows how to use the movement of pitches to their advantage instead of using maximum effort and trying to blow hitters away. There were times when Tiger hit the driver but he chose his spots wisely. The same should hold true with pitchers, know when that extra few MPH's is needed and use it accordingly.
On approach shots Tiger was obviously able to avoid hazards but he also knew where the slopes of the green were and which area around the green was the best place to putt from. He kept the ball below the hole when possible and rarely missed to the short side of the green. I compared this aspect of Tiger's game to a scouting report on hitters because he understood what the course was giving him and then executed a shot based on a many different variables, the same way a pitcher chooses pitch Lokation, selection, and sequencing.
When Tiger got to the green and started his putting routine it really became evident how much putting and pitching have in common. The process of determining a line to hit the putt was comparable to choosing a Lokation to aim at. The length of the putt and whether it was uphill or downhill determined the force of the ball strike just like a pitcher determines what speed to throw the ball. Finally, when Tiger read the green for left or right breaking putt it reminded me of a pitcher accounting for the movement of pitches.
Managing a golf course and managing the game as a pitcher are comparable on so many different levels. First, it's not always how far you hit the ball or how hard you can throw it, but can you control it? Second, it's not possible to hit all Lokations or always have 2 foot birdie putts, but can you put yourself in a position to succeed? Finally, when it is time to perform and you have taken all variables into consideration, can you execute the putt or pitch to close the deal? Tiger did it all today.