The Local Knowlege


British Open Tip: Hold the face open in deep rough

First, we saw Tiger, then Tim Clark (see photos below), then Tom Watson, then Phil Mickelson. They were each slashing the ball out of the deep rough on Thursday's first round at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

01_tim_clark.jpg02_tim_clark.jpg03_tim_clark.jpg04_tim_clark.jpgTiger's first shot from the left rough on the 15th hole was so tough, he advanced the ball only a few yards into a slightly better lie. Watson, on the 18th hole, underestimated the severity of the taller grass grabbing the club's hosel. It severely closed the clubface, rocketing the ball only 50 yards ahead and straight left into the grandstand. Mickelson's lie on the third hole was so bad, he couldn't see the ball as he swung. He managed to punch it out into the fairway. On the seventh hole, the rough was so deep he was worried he might hurt himself and contemplated taking an unplayable lie. He played out sideways but flew the ball across the fairway into rough on the other side. Clearly unhappy, he took five shots to finally make the green. On the next hole, after a frantic search, he did take an unplayable lie from the rough and saved a bogey.

How do you handle lies in such deep rough? First you need to understand why the clubface closes so dramatically. It's because the tall blades of grass wrap around the club's hosel, stopping the heel of the club from moving, but the toe keeps turning over. The result: a closed clubface. Tiger was quoted after his round that the grass was so tall on his first shot that it wrapped around the actual shaft, not just the hosel. That's deep rough, for sure!

Lee Trevino always said the worse the lie, the tighter you should hold the club. He said to start with the clubface open, "then hold on real tight, as tight as you can."

So here are your basics in deep rough:
-- Start with an open clubface at address
-- Aim right (for right-handers) of where you want the ball to finish
-- Grip more tightly than normal
-- Hit down and through the ball, trying to hold the face square so it doesn't turn over

In Tiger's book How I Play Golf, he addresses a similar predicament--hitting a short pitch from rough around the green. Here's what he said:
-- I use my 60-degree wedge. The tall grass tends to close the clubface, and I need all the loft I can get.
-- I distribute 60 percent of my weight on my forward foot--the one closest to the green. That encourages a steep, knifelike angle of attack with the clubhead.
-- I hold the club more firmly than normal, especially with my left hand. Again, the rough will try to twist the clubface closed.
-- I make a very upright backswing, cocking my wrists abruptly.
-- On the downswing, the force of the clubhead should be expended downward, to penetrate the grass. I don't let the clubhead approach the ball on a level angle. I'd be at the mercy of the rough.
-- I restrict my follow-through. In fact, if I hit down sharply, there won't be any follow-through.

If you have a longer shot and the rough isn't too deep, sometimes a higher-lofted fairway wood is a better play than an iron because there is less hosel for the grass to wrap around. I actually carry my wife's old Callaway 9-wood (I put it in my bag when she got new clubs). It's like a magic club from the rough. The extra loft gets the ball up, and the direction is usually  pretty straight.

As for the British Open rough, at least Tim Clark handled it with a great attitude in his first round.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman

Photos by Darren Carroll/For Golf Digest

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Weekend Tip: Three keys for playing in the wind

On Friday, the 50,000-pound Space Shuttle Enterprise made its final flight, piggybacking atop a Boeing 747, which soared over the Hudson River on its way to landing at JFK. Some concerns about 30 mph winds buffeting the giant cargo proved to be unfounded. (See video below, and listen to the wind as the Enterprise sails overhead.)

If only our golf balls could bore through the wind with such grace and ease. But of course, 30 mph winds can play havoc with our dimpled little friends that weigh only 1.68 ounces. So how do you play when the wind is howling outside, as it tends to do in many parts of the country at this time of year? Here are three tips, from three of the game's all-time great wind players:

Tom Watson: Watson didn't win five British Opens, all in Scotland, without a keen understanding of playing great in the wind. He says he learned early on that the key to handling British Open venues on windswept links is to feel as if you're hitting long chip shots around the course. You rarely want to swing full bore in high winds, Watson says. Swinging all-out only makes the ball spin more, which causes it to balloon and be affected by higher velocities and gusts. By thinking of hitting long chip shots you reduce backspin so the ball stays lower, where it's less affected by the wind. In windy conditions, a ball rolling along the ground is generally easier to control than one that flies high through the air.

Payne Stewart: Before he passed away, the three-time major champion and Ryder Cup star wrote an article for Golf Digest about playing in poor conditions. Stewart advocated riding the wind with the driver to get maximum carry and distance, but to curve the ball into the wind on iron shots and other approaches for better control. For example, if he were teeing off in a strong left-right wind, Stewart would intentionally aim left and play a power fade. The ball would curve in the same direction as the wind was blowing, thereby allowing the wind to carry it for optimum distance. However, on an approach with, say, a left-to-right wind, he would intentionally aim to the right and play a draw that curved into the wind. The wind served as a backdrop to "hold" the ball on the green. Likewise, he would intentionally fade his approaches into a right-to-left wind.

Paul Azinger: Paul's strong grip and strong turn resulted in an ability to hit very low shots, even with his wedges and short irons. Paul would play the ball back of center in his stance and hit knockdown shots where he limited his follow-through. "Finish low to hit it low," he often said. Another secret Paul revealed to me years ago was to hit the ball lower, not higher, when playing iron shots downwind. The conventional wisdom is to hit the ball high downwind to take advantage of the breeze. But Paul contended that doing so caused you to lose control of the shot's distance. By hitting a low knockdown, you keep the ball under the wind so the ball is less affected, and therefore you can better control your distance on approach shots.

Give these techniques a try this weekend or anytime it's windy. And good luck with your game. I'll be pulling for you.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman

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Weekend Tip: Plot your course
like Patrick Cantlay

By Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter @RogerSchiffman

Cantlay.jpgPatrick Cantlay after shooting 60 at the Travelers earlier this year.

As Patrick Cantlay goes head to head with Tiger Woods at the Open on Thursday-Friday and is on the cutline for the weekend, my colleague and Assistant Managing Editor Jeff Patterson reminds me that he interviewed the amateur sensation earlier this year at the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn. Patterson spoke to Cantlay three days before he shot that remarkable 60 in the second round.

Here are some thoughts from Cantlay, a sophomore at UCLA, on how he manages his game and gets around the course in as few strokes as possible:

-- I don't have any swing thoughts out on the course, just lines and yardages and I concentrate on being fresh and ready to hit each shot.

-- I have lines off the tee. I want to make sure I have real specific lines, so I know where I'm going to hit it ahead of time.

-- And spots to each hole location, so that if the pin is back, I want to know if it would be better to miss short-left or short-right.

-- I have lines that I pick, so I can make aggressive swings on somewhat-safe lines.

When you examine these thoughts from a very young player, you quickly realize that he's not thinking mechanically, but rather plotting his way from shot to shot, and making sure that those shots (or "lines" as he calls them) provide optimum safety. This is a good lesson for all of us.

Good luck with your game this weekend.
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Mid-week Lesson: Tom Watson says to hit it hard downwind

Editor's note: Starting today, and every Wednesday, I'll be writing about something instructional to help your golf game. We might look at a simple tip, or we might delve into a longer discussion about a crucial topic in the world of golf instruction. Hope you find it useful, and remember to follow me on Twitter @RogerSchiffman.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest

Today on Golf Channel's Morning Drive, the discussion turned to who's the best wind player at the British Open this week. Rich Lerner mentioned that the all-time best wind player might be Tom Watson, who won the Open Championship five times (and almost a sixth at Turnberry two years ago). Here's a lesson from Watson that ran in the December 2005 issue of Golf Digest, the same year he won the Senior British Open at Royal Aberdeen in severe winds. What Tom says is counterintuitive, but it could really help your game.--Roger Schiffman

More spin, higher trajectory
are crucial downwind
Golf Digest Playing Editor,
with Nick Seitz

Downwind approach shots demand more adjustment than many players make. You almost always have to allow for more wind than you think. The ball will go farther and lower and will run more after it hits the ground. Sometimes you need to land the ball short of the green if it's open in front.

The 12th hole at Royal Aberdeen in this year's (2005) Senior British Open was an example of the ball running downwind. I had about 200 yards to the front edge of the green. The first day I
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Saturday Morning Tip: It's all about feel

bert_yancey_1967_usopen_300.jpgOK, I'll admit it. One of the worst things about reading a tip about technique just before you go out to play is it might get you thinking too much about your mechanics. And any good amateur or tour player will tell you that once you stick that tee in the ground, mechanics is the last thing you should be thinking about. So here's your tip for today: DON'T THINK!

Seriously, it's fine to have one swing key, but don't overdo it, And try to use non-mechanical thoughts on the course. Things like slow tempo, or smooth transition, or accelerate through. Not things like cock your wrists, or plant your left heel, or keep your elbow in. I remember watching the great Bert Yancey (pictured here at the 1967 U.S. Open) give a clinic in my hometown of Tallahassee, Fla., when I was a kid. He said he always thought of two things when he swung. Watching the ball and one other swing key. Never more than that. Bert was ahead of his time when it came to sport psychology. He knew that the brain can't think of too many things and also allow the body to make a naturally good swing.

About 10 years ago, I helped the noted teacher from Birmingham, Ala., Hank Johnson, write a

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Playin' in the rain

It's raining throughout much of the country right now, especially in the Northeast, and flood conditions are predicted for the next couple of days. Let's hope your home or apartment is OK. If you are able to actually get out and play some golf, undoubtedly you'll be playing in some very wet conditions.

I found some terrific tips, from a known "mudder," Tom Watson, for playing when it's difficult to keep your hands and equipment dry. Watson won five British Open (and almost a sixth two years ago), so he knows something about playing in adverse conditions. And even if it clears up, you'll need to understand how to hit shots off of soggy turf. Here's Tom's advice, from the pages of Golf Digest:

-- In the rain, wrap a handkerchief around the grip. If your grips are wet and slick, you might as well walk in, no matter how good a player you are. You have to maintain a firm grip
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