Twelve months ago, Oliver Fisher made history by becoming the first player in the history of the European Tour to break 60.
The Englishman’s incredible 12-under, bogey-free 59 in the second round of the Portugal Masters on the Victoria Course at Dom Pedro was a rarely seen display of a golfer completely in the zone and performing close to his peak. Who better, then, to offer some advice on how to card your lowest-ever round?
The best place to save shots is your short game and putting. Most amateurs lose the majority of their shots on the greens so, first thing first, you need to work on your distance control with the putter and holing out.
Holing out is so important when you’re trying to get a score going. You watch the guys on tour, they’re holing out from five or six feet nearly all the time but the opposite is probably true of amateurs. That’s why practising those putts every chance you get is so important. That’s what wins you tournaments. When you look at the stats, it’s the guys who putt well who are up there near the top of the leaderboard most weeks.
You need to have a pretty clear plan on what you’re working on. There’s no sense in just walking onto the practise green and hitting random putts. You need to say, okay, this session is about green reading, or this session is about technique. You need to have a purpose.
Practising green reading is massively underrated. You read putts on every single hole – but how much time do you reckon you spend practising reading them? It’s important to do that because your eye can go out a little bit from one round to the next. People talk about training every part of your game. Well, that’s one of them.
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Practising your putting can be boring, I get that. It’s not the same as hitting driver. That’s why you need to make it fun. Play a little game with yourself. It might only last 15 or 20 minutes but it all counts and helps you focus.
The golden rule to low scores is keeping it in play. As soon as you get out of position or have to scramble, you’re killing your score. To do that, you need to be pretty comfortable with your longer clubs but if that’s not your driver, that’s okay. If you think you’re going to stand a better chance of keeping it in play with a 3-iron or a fairway wood, go with that. Better to be twenty yards further back in the fairway than playing three off the tee.
Bouncebackability. Every golfer needs some of that. You’ve got to learn how to react to bad shots or bad breaks. Let’s face it, it’s not like you’re trying to hit it in the rubbish or make a poor connection, so you can’t afford to beat yourself up too much when it happens. What’s more important is how you’ve prepared for the shot. If you’ve done everything right before you’ve pulled the club back, in terms of making the most informed decision, then you can have no regrets.
Don’t stand over the ball thinking ‘What if I hit it in the water?’ If you find yourself thinking those things, step back, take a deep breath and re-focus. So many times, you see somebody hit a bad shot and they’ll say, ‘I knew I was going to do that’. Well, if you knew it, why didn’t you stop?
That’s not to say showing a bit of frustration is always a bad thing. If you feel it bubbling up, you need to release it. It’s very hard to play with negative energy churning you up. That’s why it’s so important you have a clear understanding of how to manage yourself. You’re your own boss on the course, so you’ve got to know when to give yourself a pep talk or when to have a quiet word.
Too many people get too wound up by first tee nerves. We all feel them. Personally, I think it’s a good thing to have a few butterflies in your stomach. But you can’t let them consume you. That’s no good. If you hit a bad shot off the first, so what? It’s only the first shot of the day. There’s still a lot of hole left and 17 more after that. Nobody ever won anything on the first hole. See the bigger picture: it’s 18 holes.
On a related point, don’t try and smoke your first shot of the day. Like I say, it’s only your first shot. You don’t get anything extra for having the longest drive of the day on the opening hole. You need to play your way in to a round, find your rhythm and roll with it.
You’ve got to warm up. It’s no good walking cold onto the tee. Whether that’s a big range session or just some stretching, you’ve got to do something.