A year after he came so close at the US Open, Tommy Fleetwood's short game coach, Graham Walker, takes us inside his playbook for a major championship
This is the science of the modern game laid out in one little black book. The numbers are enticing and the scent of planning – plotted in such carefully crafted notes – feels intoxicating to the curious.
This is Graham Walker’s playbook – a campaign of action that guides in his quest to make his clients better players. And in a major week, it comes into its own.
“I’ve a little thing that I run through my head and I talk to my players about and that’s deal and develop,” he explains.
“That’s what you are dealing with on a day-to-day basis and what opportunities you have to develop.”
It’s a mantra that’s helped make Tommy Fleetwood a world-class short game exponent.
He’s 7th in scrambling on the PGA Tour this year, 11th in scrambling from the rough and 3rd in sand save percentage.
Talent plays a huge part in that, of course, but so does planning and good old-fashioned graft – and Walker revealed the lengths those at the very top are prepared to go in their quest to improve.
The strategies the pair put in place to maximise the chance to succeed at last month’s PGA Championship would befuddle the average golfer. It was a plan conceived of very specific shots.
“We knew we needed some rough shots,” he adds.
“We put five shots together – a higher and shorter shot, a bunker shot, a medium range bunker shot and a long range bunker shot. We looked from up slopes as well, as you can get some of those round here.
“That was very specific to this golf course. Then, from the fairway, the lies are pretty good and standard but it was how he technically moved the ball and how he moved with it.
“That enabled him then to feel the normal little chips. We put a couple of rough shots in. There was one that was like a bunker shot, with plenty of speed in the club and plenty of loft in the golf ball, and then a more standard shot if there was a good lie in the rough.”
That should be a lot of time blocked off in anyone’s calendar but Walker and Fleetwood’s efforts to embed this programme was limited in the run up to the first round.
The Oaks’ head professional is part of a busy camp around the World No. 18 that also includes his long-time coach Alan Thompson and putting expert Phil Kenyon.
But this is where groundwork – drilled down in training weeks and visits to Walker’s North Yorkshire club – pay dividends.
“If a player has already got some good work under their belt, what you are really doing is making sure you can make it work for that week.
“Tommy’s already got a lot of good stuff under his belt. He’d gone to second in scrambling before the start of the PGA Championship. We’ve become more specific with that with him.”
“We had a training week in Dubai earlier in the year,” he continued. “I want to put in cornerstones where you can spend two, three and four days working.
“You need those, away from all this, where you can actually develop.
“You can develop them if you’ve got time and time is the key. I heard an old coach a few years ago say ‘time with talent’ and you do need that.”
When that can be in short supply it’s a good job that Walker fits so neatly within Fleetwood’s team. The trio of himself, Thompson and Kenyon all worked together with England Golf squads and there is a familiarity in the way they combine.
Walker explained: “We’re used to working with teams and that has been a good grounding. Alan and I worked with A-squads and the players would say ‘Alan told me that in my long game’ or ‘Graham’s told me that in my short game’.
“There is definitely a fit in how we see movement – the way the player and the club is moving.
“There is a natural cut off point but we don’t really find it too often. They just merge together.”
The early week at Bethpage Black was the perfect example of this flexibility. Fleetwood spent an hour and a half on the range with Thompson, before Walker tried to drill some of those specific shots in little more than 60 minutes afterwards.
It should be a similar plan of attack at Pebble Beach. But getting in the ‘reps’, as Tiger loves to say, is one thing. As Walker concludes, execution is still the key.
“Tuesday (of PGA week) we went out on the golf course and played 18 holes so that gave me the opportunity of working on the golf course and putting them in there.
“We did quite a lot of bunker and chip shots out there. Taking your skills to the golf course is a massive thing.
“It’s great to be skilful but you’ve got to make sure you take those skills to the course.”