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Be a Complete Player
Vijay Singh

One thing I've been asked over and over about my run of great golf is this. Have you been doing anything differently to practice or prepare?

The answer might not be exciting, but it's "No."

My 2004 season - nine wins, including a major, and almost $11 million in prize money - was a result of almost two years of serious work on the same few full-swing fundamentals. I also felt very confident with my putting and the decisions I made out on the course.

What does that mean for you?

First, find the two or three basic things you need to work on in your swing and dedicate yourself to improving them without getting distracted by other tips or swing thoughts.

The drills I'm going to show you at the end of the story are the same three I've been doing on the range after my tournament rounds for more than two years. Second, putting and game management are two big, big pieces to a complete game.

Everyone talks about the hours I spend at the range, but the practice rounds I play are just as important. You need to put yourself in situations where you're hitting shots on the course that you've been practising on the range.

Read on to learn how to be a complete player.


GO WITH IT: One of the main things I wanted to improve from 2003 was my consistency with the driver. I did that by making my swing a little shorter and tighter (see drills). I also have a driver that's built with an open face to prevent me from losing shots left. I am so confident with my driver that I hit it a lot more than most players do. I can hit my driver straighter than I do my fairway woods.


ACCURACY: I drove it well last year but wasn't taking advantage of that with my short approaches. I worked a lot on alignment - being off even slightly is the difference between a makeable birdie and a good two-putt. You have to be able to target the flag with your short irons to score. Here, I'm making a controlled, smooth weight shift. I'm balanced, and my legs have stayed quiet.


READ THE LIE:The first thing to remember is to take what the lie will give you. If the ball is sitting up on top of the grass, you can take a fairly normal swing. You'll have to make some adjustments for a potential flyer (like using less club and getting ready for more roll). If the ball is sitting down, you have to swing aggressively and brace yourself for some resistance at mpact. If the ball is down in the grass, don't make an easy swing. The club can get caught up even in sparse rough.

Club Selection

BE AGGRESSIVE:I've heard people say it's better to take more club and swing easy, but I like to play the opposite way when it comes to club selection. I love it when I have a yardage that's just past max - like 146 or 147 yards, when my 9-iron goes 144. Then I can hit a full shot and make a good, solid swing. For the average player, the most important number to know is the distance to carry a shot to the front of the green, not to the flag. That's assuming you're realistic with your carry yardages.


LESS SAND, MORE SPIN: A greenside bunker shot from a good lie is easier than a chip from the rough. You should be thinking about getting up and down. I pick the spot where I want the club to enter the sand based on how much I want the shot to spin - the closer to the ball, the more the shot will check up. Notice how I've held the club open through impact and into the finish to keep the bounce of the club working.


PICK A SPOT: For me, chippingis completely spot-orientated. First, I decide where I want the ball to drop. Depending a on if I want it to check up or release to the hole, I pick the shot I'm going to hit to that spot. I play most of my chip shots with my L-wedge. If I have to hit something longer, like a 30-yard chip, I'll use my pitching-wedge. It's also a safer chipping club for most amateurs.


ALL ABOUT FEEL: Switching from a belly putter back to a regular model before the USPGA Championship got a lot of attention, but I won 30 tournaments with the short putter. I was going back to something I knew. I practise with a putting aid that grooves a straight-back-and-through stroke.


The secret is in the dirt

Golf is a job for me. I love to play, but I'm very serious about what I do. I don't think there is any excuse for me to play without being completely prepared, and that means practising until I'm confident and ready. That could be three hours and 300 balls after I've played. The harder I work in practice and in the gym, the better my results are, so I'm not going to stop. I make my divots in a line, working backwards, because I hit to specific targets. You tell a lot about your swing by your divots.

Tight backswing

Everyone used to believe that you needed a long, loose backswing to hit the ball far. It isn't true. I've worked to make my backswing more compact and controlled, and I'm ten yards longer with each club - not to mention straighter - than I was three years ago. In this top-of-swing position (on iron shots, my club doesn't get to parallel), I still have plenty of coil and width. I'm feeling much more in control of my shots now.

Plane Check

I hit my best shots when my club goes back and comes through on the same plane. To keep track of this, I stick a shaft into the ground at the angle you see here (which resembles the angle of the shaft at address) and lay another shaft on the ground along my target line, just inside the ball. With those shafts in place, I practise with every club, swinging the club back and through so it's just above the angled shaft.


1 don't want to miss shots to the left, so I hit a lot of balls with my caddie behind me, making sure my clubface is square to slightly open at the top of my backswing. The lines of the shaft and the bottom of the clubhead are parallel to my left forearm. If the toe of the club were pointing more upward here, my clubface would be closed. Have a coach or friend check your position at the top - you'll understand why your shots fly the way they do.

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