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Practice makes perfect when pros are home on the range

In this feature showcased during ESPN's Masters coverage, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and other PGA stars explain how much visualization matters before competition

AUGUSTA, Ga. – When golf fans see professional players practicing on the driving range before beginning a round of golf in a tournament, most don’t realize the amount of work and thought the players are putting into their practice time.

That’s the subject of “Practice With a Purpose,” a feature airing on SportsCenter and other ESPN platforms this week during coverage of the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club.

“When you and I go to the range, we don’t practice like pros do,” said Jen Chafitz, producer of the piece for ESPN Features. “We go grab a couple of clubs, hopefully the balls get airborne, and we’re ready for the first tee.”

As Chafitz learned through a series of interviews conducted with players at three tournaments earlier this year, pro players use their practice time much differently.

“A lot of pros put themselves in pressure situations when they practice, and they visualize on the range,” she said. “It might be an upcoming hole on the course they’re about to play, so they pull out their driver and visualize the first hole they’ll hit with the driver is the second hole, and it’s a dogleg left, so they know they have to draw it right to left.

“When the average golfer is on the range, do they visualize holes? You’re just hoping you don’t shank it or hit the divider between you and the next person.”

Reporter Marty Smith joined Chafitz for the feature’s final shoot at the recent Match Play tournament in Austin, Texas, and spent time on the range with players Jason Day and Dustin Johnson. “We had them take us through their practice routines, what they think, what they visualize, and basically how they practice differently than the average golfer,” she said.

The idea for the feature was hatched during a brainstorm session last summer and came from Vice President, Production, Mike McQuade, who oversees ESPN’s golf coverage.

ESPN will televise the second round of the Masters today from 3-7:30 p.m. ET. Coverage on SportsCenter and ESPN.com will continue through the weekend.

ESPN reporter Marty Smith (L) watches Dustin Johnson at work on the driving range. (Jen Chafitz/ESPN).

– Molly Mita

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