They call it the “smart play” for a reason. The way that Bill Haas won this past week’s Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club proves that you don’t need the “hero shot” to win on the PGA Tour (or to shoot your best scores).

Here was the scene:

A playoff between Phil Mickelson, Keegan Bradley and Bill Haas was tied after the 1st playoff hole (#18). The second playoff hole (#10) was a drivable par 4 (315 yards) with the pin on the back of the green; both Phil & Keegan hit 3 woods short right of the green. Bill hit driver pin high but left of the green. All three players had virtually no shot at the pin, they would of all needed to drop it from Snoopy One (the blimp) to stand a chance of ever holding the green. Here is what happened next –

Phil aimed at the pin and tried the super flop but couldn’t get enough spin on the ball to hold the green. His ball rolled past the pin and off the green into the back bunker.

Keegan Bradley aimed at the pin and hit an awesome bunker shot that had some spin but still couldn’t hold the green. His ball rolled past the pin and onto the fringe.

Bill Haas thought his shot was a little too risky and knew his margin of error was really small (maybe 1 out of 20 getting it up & down). He elected to aim at the front of the green, taking all of the trouble out of play but leaving himself about a 45-foot putt.

Bill went on to make his 45-foot putt and win the tournament.

What is the lesson we can all take from this PGA Tour playoff?

Next time you are faced with a shot that is almost impossible, think like Bill Haas and don’t wait for a miracle – play the percentages and stay within your limits. You can still make birdie or par with your putter.

Know your strengths and weaknesses. Play smart and lower your scores.