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Gilchrist: On Shanshan Feng, Short-Game Challenges at Pinehurst

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I am incredibly excited, since this week marks the beginning of the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst and it looks like it will be another great U.S. Open full of amazing gameplay and competition.

We already saw how challenging Pinehurst played this past week with Martin Kaymer winning on the men’s side, and the course is sure to present many challenges this week for the women as well. It will also be interesting to see how the USGA sets up and maintains Pinehurst No. 2, as it’s the first time ever that a U.S. Open has been played in back-to-back weeks for the men and women at the same course.

One of my top students, Shanshan Feng of China, whom I have coached since her days as a junior, spent this last week before the beginning of the women’s tournament at my academy in Howey in the Hills, Fla. preparing for golf’s ultimate test.

While Shanshan has never played at Pinehurst No. 2, we talked in length about the greens and on the runoff areas around the greens, which proved challenging to the most experienced PGA Tour players this past week.

While I didn’t want Shanshan to focus on the technical side of her game last week so close to a big tournament, we worked to reinforce a little more focus on the shot selection around the greens and how to handle the fast breaking greens that Pinehurst will present.

It is particularly important to always go for the right amount of loft when dealing with hard and tightly mown areas. Another key is ball position. Playing the ball back in your stance, especially around the greens at Pinehurst, will present a much easier option than hitting a high, lofted shot with the ball forward in your stance. The reason is that the sole of the club has less of a chance of bouncing off the turf before it strikes the ball.

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Another situation to be very mindful of this week are long putts and the punishing breaks, which was another focal point of last week’s practice. The key here is identifying and being sure of the breaking point because the greens are so fast. If you’re just a fraction off with your direction or speed, you can end up off the green 20 yards away at Pinehurst No. 2.

To work on breaking putts, place a tee where you envision the breaking point to be. Aim the face of your putter at the breaking point and while hitting putts vary your speed to gauge the best combination of break and speed for making the putt or getting it very close to the hole. This will help you simplify reading and judging breaking putts, something that is crucial this week at Pinehurst.

Puttingbehind

Confidence and a player’s management of their game around the greens are going to be the deciding factors in this U.S. Open. Shanshan is confident coming into the course at Pinehurst this week and she was not afraid to share it with me.

“I have had three top-10 finishes in a row before this U.S. Women’s Open, so I think that I am in pretty good shape,” Shanshan said.

Shanshan has finished in the top 10 the last two years at the U.S. Women’s Open, so I also feel confident she will play well this week.

I advised Shanshan before the end of her training to keep in mind that it is essential to be fresh for this week, since it is likely that this tournament will have a winning score that is over par. The U.S. Open is always a mental and physical test.

I think that Shanshan has a challenging week ahead of her, but I believe that as long as she keeps her confidence levels high and can sink challenging putts, she can come out on top this week.

No matter the outcome, this week should be very exciting for all golf fans.

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Golf Digest Top 50 Teacher in America and Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher from Durbin, South Africa. Founder of the Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy located in Howey in the Hills, FL — the world's premiere junior golf academy — and teacher to many of golf's great juniors and professionals including Shanshan Feng, Morgan Hoffmann, Sandra Gal and Peter Hedblom. The Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy offers a holistic training philosophy with focus on personal development, strategy, technical training, fitness training and mental training. At GGGA, we offer the following programs: Full Time Junior Program Post Graduate Program Summer Golf Camp Winter Golf Camp Adult Program Professional Training visit us at WWW.GGGA.COM

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