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19th annual Knoxville Open to host 150-plus field
Smart off the tee, steady putting key to success at the pro level

Tentative, yet full-throttle. But there’s always out-of-bounds on the brain.

It’s a mental contradiction that causes many Nationwide Open golfers trouble teeing off on various holes.

Such challenges await many of the 156 golfers expected at Fox Den Country Club during the 19th annual Knoxville Open Presented by Food City June 19-22. (See related story beginning on this page).

“Whether it be the players in the Knoxville Open, or any amateur that plays the course for the first time, their main comment is how well you have to drive the golf ball,” said Scott Moran, head professional at FDCC and a Knoxville Open qualifier.

Moran added that with fear of out-of-bounds areas on either side of the fairways at the FDCC course, many Tour pros “never swing as well as [they] should … what we might call, ‘guide’ the ball to the fairway.

“Most people out here for the first time will put quite a few tentative swings on the golf ball because they’re worried about hitting it out-of-bounds.”

On the other hand, Moran cited the success of two-time Knoxville Open champ Hunter Haas (2004, 2006) as an example.

“Hunter stuck to his gameplan, even in the final round,” Moran said. “Where a lot of other guys were hitting three wood and driver, he would hit two-iron or some type of hybrid that got him off the tee in that 230, 240-yard range. He probably had a little longer shot into the greens, but he gave up the length into the green for the accuracy off the tee.

“He drove it well, kept it in play, and he made a lot of putts,” Moran added. “I think it was his comfort zone. It’s obvious his comfort zone is accuracy off the tee. ... He had enough confidence in the greens that all he had to do was get the ball in the middle of the greens. … at 25 feet, if you have that putt all day long you’re going to sneak a couple of those in every so often.”

Why isn’t this plan common at the Knoxville Open?

“A lot of players all have their own personal gameplans or their own strengths about their game,” Moran said. “If someone’s long off the tee, then that’s their strength, that’s what helps them shoot good scores.

“They’re not gonna want to throttle back and play to someone else’s gameplan,” Moran added. “No matter if the golf course has out-of-bounds right and left, or it’s got [fairway] bunkers on every single hole. They’re going to hit it the same way every time.

“You try to get the same mindset on every single shot and always try to swing aggressively.”

Moran said that regardless of hole location, it’s often good to aim for the middle of the hole to avoid overcompensation when trying to avoid water, for example.

“If you aim at what would be, basically, an aggressive hole location on the right side of the water, you end up putting a passive swing on it because you don’t want to miss [right],” Moran said. “Whereas if I pretend every hole’s in the middle of the green, I can swing aggressively to the middle of the green, and if I miss the shot right or left, I’ve got much more margin of error.

“You always see the pros using slopes. They’re never actually ever hitting at flagsticks, unless it might be in the middle of the green,” he added. “But if there’s a steep slope in the back of the green, they may purposely hit it far past the flagstick on the green so it catches slope and it’ll work it’s way back down to the flag.

“Imagination comes into play a lot, especially greens that are better like ours are now that have much more character and much more slope in ’em.”

“That’s what you see at the U-S Open, it’s the ones that have the most confidence off the tee and ones that putt well are the ones that always do well. The same mindset works well out here at Fox Den.”

And once on the green, “Everybody on a day-to-day basis except for maybe the top-10 on the Nationwide Tour, you watch ’em all hit a golf ball [off the tee] and you don’t know why they can’t shoot the scores that they should shoot,” Moran said. “Because on the weekends it’s the ones that had a good putter in their hands. The guys who make it to the weekend, they’ve all putted well.”

“Better to ball strike poorly during a round and be saved by your putter than have excellent ball-striking with you putter deserting you.”

To make it more difficult at FDCC since reconstruction,“Most par 5s you’ll see have smaller greens than, say, par 3s,” Moran said. “That’s one thing that was a definite change from the old golf course to now, is that all the greens were very large, probably 9[000], 10,000 square feet. Now they range anywhere from 5,000 upward to 9,000.”

Moran said there’s a typical 18-hole pattern as to how Tour officials desire a course to perform: six easy hole locations that are very accessible; six medium hole locations, which basically means you have to hit a pretty good shot to get close to that hole; and then you’ll have six difficult hole locations, which means those are the holes you don’t even try to hit at.”

If weather issues such as rain or excessive wind become a factor prior to a round,“They’ll move the yardage markers so the course plays a little bit more fair if it’s adverse conditions,” Moran said.

But regardless of weather, “[No.] 18 they always move up one day during the week to give the majority of players the change to get to the green in two,” the Fox Den pro added.

With the PGA Tour having its U.S. Open last week, the Nationwide Tour took a week off.


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