How to Make a Tough Decision When It Matters Most

Xander Schauffele secured victory for the USA at the 14th Presidents Cup. He came into the 18th hole with a 1-up lead over Corey Conners. Unfortunately, his shot hit the trees on the left and landed deep in the rough. Conners was in the fairway with a clear shot to the green.

Schauffele hit the middle of the fairway a manageable distance from the green with a conservative shot. It was definitely a tough decision, but sometimes it’s wise to play for par. So many amateurs are constantly trying the hardest route to a good score.

Don’t try to make the game harder by trying to hit shots you aren’t ready to hit successfully. Xander’s ball came to rest just 78 yards from the hole. With a brilliant wedge, he hit his third shot within two yards of the hole. Conner’s approach landed in the green bunker, and he splashed out of the sand at almost the same distance. And Xander seemed to have what he wanted when the hole started, a contest of putting to decide the match.

    Xander Schauffele of the United States team putts for the win on the 18th green during Sunday's singles games on day four of the 2022 Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow Country Club on September 25, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jared C Tilton/Getty Images)

Xander Schauffele of the United States team putts for the win on the 18th green during Sunday’s singles games on day four of the 2022 Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow Country Club on September 25, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C Tilton/Getty Images)

The next time you are faced with a difficult study decision, ask yourself a few very important questions:
  1. How can I play to my strengths from here? Sometimes the decision is an easy one from the fairway. Should I hang up or try. There’s nothing standing in your way, why don’t you just swing away? If you’re not pitching the ball well, you should sit back to a full swing distance.

  2. Where’s the biggest trouble? Sometimes the decision is whether to try to carry a penalty area. Don’t attempt to hit over water or a litter area unless the carry is safely at least 75%. Instead, hang up just beforehand and then miss the next shot. This can be extremely frustrating, but always results in lower scores.

  3. When bashing out of trouble, watch your landing zone. When amateurs hang up, they often just hit the ball into a general area. Watch out like Xander and hit the ball from a distance you’re comfortable with. Make sure you hit the fairway. Don’t exacerbate the problem by relaunching a shot that stalls in another tricky spot.

  4. If it’s a matchplay scenario, how does your decision affect your opponent? Choosing the safest path can put pressure on your competitor. Xander’s quick decision to ditch and play conservatively forced Corey to attempt to birdie. Had Xander tried and made a bigger mistake, Conners would have had an easier second shot to deal with.

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And if all goes well, the celebration will look something like this…

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