Major preparation: Dominic Azzopardi with Lucas Herbert

In the final of our series revealing the work our PGA Professionals are putting in to prepare the Aussie contingent for this week’s US PGA Championship, Dominic Azzopardi talks through the steps he and Lucas Herbert have taken to elevate Lucas’s game and the data capture that could prove critical at TPC Harding Park.

In order to play the US PGA Championship and the WGC event in Memphis last week Lucas had to fly to the US a month ago to quarantine but the preparation really began three months ago.

For eight weeks we were working every day with a big emphasis on shots inside of 150 yards.

We know his driving is world-class when he’s driving it well, his putting is world-class, his long iron play is pretty good but his approach play was the area where we thought we could make some big gains.

When he arrived in America he based himself at The Beverly Country Club in Chicago and then tried to pre-qualify for the 3M Open but he just missed out. He shot 5-under which was a nice, bogey-free round and a good way to get a competitive round under his belt.

Last week in Memphis he was a bit shut and outside with his driver but it’s hard to do much about that during an event. On Tuesday I was pretty strong on working on that even if we had to overdo the feel a little bit.

Lucas tends to get shut and outside when he makes that sway off the ball before he takes the driver away. He used to do that quite considerably. It’s gotten a lot better over the last couple of years but last week he was making that big lateral movement off the ball before he took the club away.

When he does that he can’t turn and therefore the club doesn’t open going back. We did a little bit of work on that towards the end of last week but I’ll be really strong on getting him to remain really stable over the ball and create the right feels and fundamentals.

I’m happy to do a fair bit of technique work with him on Mondays and Tuesdays but come Wednesday it’s really about seeing the shot and hitting the shot. I don’t want him being too technical.

I was on the phone two or three times last week looking at videos and working through things with him and he did get a little bit better as the week went on. That gave him some confidence that heading into the PGA he was moving in the right direction and getting his driving game back to where we know it should be.

Prior to lockdown I would have said there was no way I could get the results I can get through Skillest and online coaching but I’ve changed my whole perception of that just because of the results I’ve seen the past few months.

They’ve just upgraded my Skillest account so that we can use Zoom to conduct live lessons through the app. They can record swings, I can draw lines, I can do whatever I need while I’m talking to him with the ear pods in.

We used that for the first time last week at the WGC and it was fantastic.

As much as this has enabled us to continue working quite well there’s nothing better than being there. I get a lot out of watching his rounds of golf. It could be one shot during a round that shows up something you will want to work on later and if I’m not there to see it then it makes it hard to identify any potential issues.

In terms of preparing for the golf course we lean a lot on performance analyst Tom Boys.

Two years ago we started inputting stats into a spreadsheet after every round that Lucas played which provided us with all sorts of information.

We’ve collected this data for years and part of Boysy’s role is to analyse the course we’re playing and he ran a report for us a couple of weeks ago on Harding Park. That identifies what areas of Lucas’s game he needs to be really strong with so we can prep the areas we feel we need to prior to getting to that event.

We know a hell of a lot about the golf course. We know you’ve got to drive it really well. Boysy has gone back and looked at any events that have been played at the course, where the pins are placed and where the bad misses to all those pins were.

Are there a lot of shots between 175-225 yards into greens? Are there are a lot of 100-150-yard shots?

We’re very much all over how we need to play the golf course.

We did a lot of work on that 50-150-yard range before Lucas left and that was all because of the data we’d collected the past 18 months.

A lot of the communication from Lucas so far this week has been around the ‘professionalism list’ he circulates on group message to the team.

He’s always No.1 for professionalism and I always seem to be at the bottom because I tend to put a bit more rubbish on everyone else in the group chat.

His mental coach Jamie Glazier is down the bottom with me, Boysy is always fairly high up, his movement coach Simone Tozer is No.2 and David Rollo his manager is No.3.

This is his fun every day. If he’s playing those kinds of silly games I know he’s in a good headspace.

That’s a real barometer for me. If there’s plenty of banter coming the way of me and Jamie that means he’s happy and in a good place.

The less I hear from him about his golf in a week like this the better.

Dominic Azzopardi is a 30-year PGA Professional now based at Peregian Golf Course on the Sunshine Coast. Along with Lucas Herbert, Dominic coaches a number of elite amateurs.

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