LOUISVILLE — Dealing with the nuisance of rain and schedule interruptions from weather delays early in major championship week is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to being prepared for play on Thursday. When a venue like Valhalla gets soaked like it has ahead of this week’s PGA Championship, it changes the entire mindset surrounding your preparation. You’re getting ready for a sprint instead of a marathon.

The numbers on the scorecard—7,700 yards, par 71—might look daunting to the average player, but to a subset of guys in the field this week, soft fairways and greens, the latter being relatively flat, mean you’re going to have to shoot the grass off this place to win. That is a big contrast to a firm-and-fast setup that demands precision in where you place your shots. So the prep changes accordingly.

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For example, getting to 20 or so under par that it might take to win this week means you’re going to have to be hyper-aggressive. Smash it, find it and go after more pins that you might otherwise take on. That will translate into more misses in difficult short-sided locations on certain holes. So proportionally, more practice time goes into diagnosing lies around the green, identifying the different kinds of grass and how the ball comes out of what will probably be juicy lies around the green. Can you spin it? Can you loft it? What does the ball do when it lands?

It might sound counter-intuitive, but putting actually becomes less of a factor in a week like this because there’s less premium on handling the quickness of the greens and diagnosing challenging slopes. The players contending this week are probably going to have a similar profile: The ability to hit it far, take iron shots very high and land them close to the hole. If you’re hitting relatively short irons into these greens, there’s not going to be a drama or defensive putting like you might otherwise see a place like Augusta.

So the goal with my players has been to prepare for the test you’re going to be given. Conservative lines off the tee, percentage plays into the greens and solid pars will get you passed. Getting ready means embracing the mindset that the rewards will go to the person who is most willing to take the risks and is the best at pulling them off. Gentlemen, start your engines …


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This article was originally published on golfdigest.com