Sometimes, the safe shot isn’t as safe as it seems. Witness Jim Furyk’s meltdown on the 72nd hole of the 2012 WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club.

Clinging to a one-shot lead over Keegan Bradley, Furyk hit his approach to the 18th hole into thick rough, with a bunker between his ball and the flag and little green to work with. However, Bradley’s ball was in the bunker, plugged in a bad lie, leaving him a difficult up-and-down for par. In short, Furyk figured a bogey would, at worst, get him into a playoff.

The smart play for Furyk: Make sure to get the ball over the bunker and onto the green, even if it meant a long putt for par. That’s what the veteran PGA Tour star tried to do, but his flubbed effort came up short in more rough just past the sand. Bradley made an improbable par while Furyk suffered a double-bogey to lose by one.

The lesson: When you decide to play safely, you still must execute the shot. As Furyk showed, that’s easier said than done (especially under pressure). Too often, our focus drifts away from the safe spot and toward the cup, causing an indecisive swing and a poor result.

When you’re in this situation:

  • Choose your safety target and eliminate the hole from your thoughts.
  • Make a few practice swings looking at your target (not the ball) to get a feel for the swing needed to put it there.
  • At address, ignore the hole and give your spot a look or two to seal your commitment.
  • Make a firm, confident swing.

A moment’s indecision is all it takes to wreck your best intentions.