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Instruction

How She Hit That: Hyo Joo Kim's record-breaking swing

Before last Thursday, nobody had ever shot a round better than 62 in a major championship. South Korean teenager Hyo Joo Kim not only erased that record with her first-round 61 at the Evian Championship, she also birdied the 72nd hole Sunday afternoon to beat seven-time major champion Karrie Webb by a shot and win the title. 


Kim's free-flowing swing produces effortless power and accuracy to match from a 5-foot-3 frame. In France, she averaged 250 yards per drive and missed only nine fairways over four days. "Her swing works for two main reasons," says Michael Jacobs, the 2013 Metropolitan PGA Teacher of the Year. "It's because of how her arms travel 'up' in the backswing and the way she uses her lower body to turn her hips on the downswing.

"On the backswing, her left arm and hand travel up above her right shoulder," says Jacobs, who runs the X Golf School at Rock Hill Country Club in Manorville, Long Island. "If your arm moves too low across your chest, you're going to lose freedom and speed. On the downswing, she pushes with her right foot before the club has even reached the top, which initiates a powerful hip turn. Then she uses great left leg action to get her left hip out of the way. The result is a club moving through impact in a very fast and repeatable way."

To produce more speed in your swing, Jacobs says, check your position at the top of the backswing and make sure your left arm is either matched to the line of your shoulders or above it. On some smaller, slower swings, practice initiating your hip turn toward the target before the club reaches the top and feel your left hip move around and behind, giving your arms room to swing through. 

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How He Hit That

How He Hit That: Sergio Garcia's chip into the water at the BMW

The stakes were high for Sergio Garcia, who trailed by two shots Sunday at the BMW Championship going into the reachable par-5 17th. A win would solidify his position in the FedEx Cup, but more importantly, clear some of the bad taste from a season of almosts -- nine top-10s without a win. 

Garcia decided to lay up in the thin Denver air, but hit his third shot over the green from 83 yards. Faced with a straightforward chip from an uphill lie, Garcia -- known for his terrific short game -- hit it thin. The ball rolled across the green and into the water, and Garcia ended up making a triple bogey. "You wouldn't hit it in that water if you gave him a thousand balls," said Johnny Miller on the telecast. "That is just a flat-out choke." Garcia finished tied for fourth, four behind Billy Horschel. 



Tension is a killer in the short game, says top teacher Shaun Webb, who is based at the David Toms Golf Academy in Shreveport, La. "With tournament pressure and water behind the flag, fear of failure can get to even the best players in the world," Webb says. "In this case, Sergio made the error of stopping the motion of his chest through impact, allowing the smaller muscles in his hands and wrists to take over this delicate shot."

You probably aren't playing for $1.5 million, but everybody plays chip shots under some kind of pressure. Take these steps to avoid making this kind of mistake.

"First, if the grass is smooth, putt the ball if you can. It's the least risky option," Webb says. "If you chip, set up with your chest slightly open to the target line and hold the club with very light grip pressure. Make sure the butt of the club points at your belly button throughout the chip, which means you're keeping your chest rotating to support the club."


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Instruction

How He Hit That: Bernhard Langer's ageless swing

The testament to Bernhard Langer's dominance on the Champions Tour isn't that he has five victories this year and an almost $800,000 lead on the money list over No. 2 Colin Montgomerie. It's that his name is being inserted into the conversation as a candidate to be one of Paul McGinley's captain's picks for the European Ryder Cup that will play next month. 


The 56-year-old Langer probably won't make the team, but he still looks -- and plays -- like the guy who was a stalwart of the 1990s European squads.

At the Dick's Sporting Goods Open, Langer shot rounds of 67-67-66 to brush away Woody Austin and Mark O'Meara by a shot. It was his 24th win as a senior, and the fifth win of his 2014 season, tying his personal best for victories in a year set in 2010. Langer is on his way to winning his sixth money title in seven full years on the Champions Tour, and he's doing it by leading the tour in greens hit and converting on an average of 5.18 birdies per round -- also tops on tour. 

"The signature of Bernhard's swing is balance and coordination," says ESPN swing coach Jerome Andrews, who is based at Spring Creek Golf Club in Charlottesville, Va. "He has the club, arms and body all turning through impact together. There's not a lot to go wrong, and he's never going to hit the ball very crooked."

Add in the fact that Langer has once again solved the yips with an unconventional stroke and he's taking advantage of all the extra birdie looks he gets. 

"To be that precise, he doesn't use a lot of leg action," Andrews says. "The clubhead, shaft, hands and left arm swing together and track up an imaginary line in front of his toes to a controlled, three-quarter arm swing. The club comes back on an inside path to the target line, which gives him an ideal mix of distance, accuracy and balance."

Langer was never one of the longer hitters on the PGA Tour, but his fanatical fitness routine and efficient swing have proven to age well. He's 10th on the Champions Tour in driving distance at just under 280 yards -- almost 20 yards longer than he hit it during his regular-tour career. 

"A good start to getting some of what Langer has in your swing is to be in position from the start," Andrews says. "Get your upper body balanced on top of your lower body at address, and position your weight on the balls of your feet. If your shoulders are tilted or your weight is back on your heels, you're going to have to compensate with big body movements and lose that precision."

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Instruction

How He Hit That: Rory McIlroy's power-accuracy combination

By Matthew Rudy

If you're looking for the ideal statistical profile for the No. 1 player in the world, it's hard to beat Rory McIlroy's line. He led the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in driving distance (334.8 yards) and greens hit (79.2 percent), and he was 12th in driving accuracy. 

And there's the $3.2 million he has earned for back-to-back victories at the British Open and Firestone. 

When McIlroy is so dominant off the tee, he's the odds-on favorite every time he plays. The betting line is 5-to-1 for this week's PGA. 

"Driving the ball long and straight is a huge advantage, and nobody is doing that better than Rory McIlroy right now," says Garrett Chaussard, a Golf Digest top teacher in Illinois and instructor at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont, Ill. "He has the ability to create a ton of speed with a relatively small frame all while returning the center of the club to the ball consistently -- which is the key to hitting it straight and being able to swing the driver with confidence on even the tightest hole."

Here's a video from this year's Honda Classic that helps illustrate just how Rory does this.



McIlroy punctuated his driving clinic at Firestone with his tee shot on the final hole, a narrow 464-yard par 4 with trees protecting the left side of the green. McIlroy hit his driver 324 yards into the center of an eight-yard window where he had a clear approach to the green. He hit a 140-yard sand wedge into the center of the green and finished with a routine two-putt to close out his 66 and beat Sergio Garcia by two strokes.

"Rory's speed comes from the ability to torque his upper and lower body against each other -- or, in other words, to turn his body really fast," Chaussard says. "At Cog Hill, we use Swing Catalyst's balance and force-plate software to measure a player's ability to shift and turn during the swing. Players who can shift their weight to their right foot early in the takeaway can then shift their weight back to the lead foot sooner. If you can make this move before the club has finished the backswing and the hips start to unwind, you can use the club like a whip through the ball, like Rory does." 

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How He Hit That

How He Hit That: Tim Clark's precision short irons

By Matthew Rudy

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Tim Clark is never going to overpower a golf course. 

In fact, he's next to last out of all the players measured for driving distance on the PGA Tour in 2014, at just under 270 yards per tee shot. 

So if Clark is going to contend, he has to make the most of of his opportunities when he has short irons in his hand. He did that in Montreal, finishing with five birdies on the back nine Sunday to steal the RBC Canadian Open from Jim Furyk by a shot. 

The 12th hole, a 570-yard par-5, was a two-shot hole for a lot of players in the field. Clark hit his tee shot 260 yards, then laid up to 91 yards. From there, he hit his sand wedge to five feet to set up the birdie that would pull him within two shots of Furyk. 

"Tim Clark knows there's a premium on hitting very accurate short iron shots for him," says 2012 New York Metropolitan PGA Section Teacher of the Year Michael Jacobs. "He hits more downward with his wedges than any of his other clubs, and you can see by his setup that he understands this downward strike will skew the path of his club to the right of his initial aim. He sets up well left of the target."

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Jacobs uses GEARS three-dimensional imaging software to show exactly what Clark--and any amateur who comes to his X Golf School at Rock Hill Country Club on Long Island--does with his body during the swing. 

"His initial aim and downswing control the path of the clubhead, but the unwinding of Tim's body during the downswing keeps him from prematurely closing the clubface and spoiling the shot with a miss to the left," says Jacobs. "He actually starts shifting towards his left foot late in the backswing, and then uses the ground to help open his hips and shoulders well ahead of the strike." 

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The result? Clark is third on tour in greens hit from 75 to 100 yards, at just under 92 percent, and his average proximity from the hole on those shots is 14 feet.  

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How He Hit That

How She Hit That: Mo Martin's winning 3-wood at Birkdale

By Matthew Rudy

Eagles to win major championships are unlikely by themselves. Mo Martin's was even more unlikely than that. 

The diminutive Californian hit her 3-wood approach on the 18th at Birkdale from 240 yards in swirling winds and watched as it rolled toward the hole like a putt. It bounced off the pin and ended up six feet away. She sank the next for her first eagle of the 2014 season, and a one-shot victory at the Women's British Open.   




Wielding a wood for an approach is nothing new for Martin, who is one of the LPGA's shortest hitters at 233 yards per drive. She's also first in driving accuracy at more than 85 percent fairways hit, and comfortable hitting woods from tight fairway lies. Birkdale set up perfectly for her, with firm, fast fairways and room to roll shots onto greens.

Martin said the wind was full into her face and she had a left-to-right lie. She aimed left and let it fly. "When it was rolling on the ground I said 'Sit," and then I said "Go," and it looked perfect, so I didn't have anything more to say. It hit the pin and I could hear it from the fairway." Her eagle putt went right in the center, and she waited an hour as Shanshan Feng, Suzann Pettersen and Inbee Park tried unsuccessfully to catch her at one under. It was Martin's first victory of any kind since the 2011 Eagle Classic on the Symetra Tour.  

"She's so great at these shots because she treats them just like she's hitting a wedge," says ESPN swing coach Jerome Andrews. "Her neck, arms and shoulders are relaxed. It's not like she's trying to gear up and produce more speed or trying to lift the ball into the air." 

Amateurs often struggle with fairway woods -- especially from tight lies -- because they try to add speed and loft. "You're going for your regular rhythm and pace, which is going to promote solid contact," says Andrews, who teaches at Spring Creek Golf Club in Charlottesville, VA., and Altadena Golf Course in Altadena, CA -- Martin's hometown. "Keep your lower body quiet at the start and start the swing with the club head, hands and arms. This sequence will let the club and arms swing together with the shoulders and hips. Hit it solid and let the club do the work." 

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How He Hit That

How He Hit That: Angel Cabrera's tee shot bombs at The Greenbrier

By Matthew Rudy

Each time Angel Cabrera overpowers a major championship with huge tee shots at critical moments, we wonder why he doesn't do it a "regular" Tour stop. 

At The Greenbrier, the 44-year-old Argentine finally did, shooting a pair of weekend 64s to take a third title to go with his 2007 U.S. Open and 2009 Masters wins. 

Cabrera's success in West Virginia had the same flavor as his other wins. He birdied the 11th and 12th holes to take the lead from George McNeill, then eagled the 13th with an 8-iron from 176 yards. On the 16th and 17th, his tee shots traveled more than 330 yards each, and he averaged 307 per drive for the event.

Related: Angel Cabrera Swing Sequence

"He does all the regular things tour players do well, in terms of setup and balance, but you can see where all that extra power comes from when he goes into his backswing," says three-time World Long Drive champion Sean Fister. "On the backswing, his right elbow works higher than his left. At the top, his right elbow is high, in that Jack Nicklaus position that is so signature of a long hitter. After the transition, he slams that right elbow into his right hip and starts turning hard."

Cabrera's massive hip turn and heavy clubhead lag translate into speed that far surpasses most 6-foot-1, 245-pound guys in their mid-40s. "At impact, his belt buckle is pretty much already facing his target," says Fister, who performs long drive exhibitions and teaches power clinics from his base in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. "He's firing those hips like nobody's business. He posts his left leg straight and turns hard into his left hip socket, and that club can't help but come through really fast."

Ironically, Cabrera's powerful engine is probably what has prevented him from winning more than three events. "He has wonderful body control and is able to stay centered and rotate between his feet instead of lunging -- which is what most players do - -but when you have this much rotation you have to have perfect timing," says Fister. "You're on the upper end of speed, and your timing has to be better than everybody else's. That's why you don't see any professional long drivers on the PGA Tour. If it's just a little off, he's going have big misses."


Amateurs looking for more power should immediately copy Cabrera's top-of-the-backswing position," says Fister. "Let that right elbow come up," he says.  "Amateurs pin that elbow to their side, and it puts the club in a flat position. Then you lunge ahead of the ball on the downswing and have to manufacture something to hit it. Focus on keeping your hip turn between your feet and leading with that right elbow on the downswing and you'll get that great inside path and a lot more power." 

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Instruction

How He Hit That: Justin Rose's high-drawing long irons at Congressional

By Matthew Rudy

Congressional played long and hard for the Quicken Loans National, which meant that the winner needed to get the same out of his irons. Justin Rose put on an approach-shot clinic from 199-229 yards, hitting five out of six greens and averaging 27 feet from the hole -- six feet better than the tour average from that distance. On the 11th hole Sunday, he drew a 5-iron to five feet from 209 yards, setting up a birdie that would give him the lead at five under. 
 

"On U.S. Open-type courses like Congressional, you have to be able to hit those shots hard and high, and shape them to get at pins," says Lukas McNair, a senior instructor at the Hank Haney Vista Ridge location outside Dallas. "On that shot at 11, Justin hit the exact shot that was called for -- a high draw that used the slope."

The one shot Rose did miss from that yardage could have been costly. He tried to thread a 4-iron between tree branches from 209 yards on the 18th hole and overcooked it, drawing the ball into the water protecting the green. But he got up and down for a good bogey, and won with a par putt on his first playoff hole against Shawn Stefani.

"There's no shortcut on those shots," McNair says. "You have to have a lot of clubhead speed and good technique. The club has to be coming down both in front of you and from the inside. Even good amateur players struggle to hit a high draw with longer irons because the tendency is to get the club stuck behind them with the right wrist bent back too much. You can hit a draw that way, but it will come out low and hot. It's better to flatten the wrist out a bit on the way down and square up on the ball through impact."  

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How He Hit That

How He Hit That: Kaymer's U.S. Open-winning fringe putts

By Matthew Rudy

loop-kaymeread-518.jpgIt was clear from the start that Martin Kaymer's putter was the best club in his bag. He one-putted 18 of his first 36 greens, and made 11 birdies against one bogey to get to 10 under by Friday afternoon. 

So it made sense for Kaymer to rely most heavily on that club for virtually any shot around the green when he had an open path to the hole -- and even on a some he didn't. On the 16th hole Sunday, Kaymer was in a collection area right of the green and had a bunker between him and the hole. Instead of pitching over the bunker, he putted to the right of it and left himself a 20-footer for par. "Putting, the worst he's going to make there is bogey," says Top 50 teacher and noted tour putting instructor Kevin Weeks. "If he plays that pitch shot over the bunker, a great shot leaves him 10 or 12 feet away. If he hits it in the bunker, all of a sudden he's looking at double or triple."

Kaymer routinely picked putting over chipping all week -- and good technique made it an easy decision. "The key to putting from off the green is to leave more of your weight on your front side so you have a steeper angle to the ball and you don't hit behind it," says Weeks, the Director of Instruction at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Lemont, Ill. "Then it's a matter of matching the speed and length of your stroke to the shot you need. I'll bet Kaymer spent hours practicing those shots on different holes at Pinehurst early in the week to get the feel for what he needed to do."

Players such as Justin Rose picked a hybrid or fairway wood to hit some fringe putts at Pinehurst, but Weeks doesn't like that play as much -- for tour players or average amateurs. "I'd rather see you use your putter, stay in your posture and concentrate on making solid contact in the middle of the face," Weeks says. "If you do that, it's an easy shot, and you're doing it with a club that feels familiar. You don't need the loft from those other clubs." 

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Instruction

How He Hit That: Kaymer's waste area approach on Day 3 of the U.S. Open

By Matthew Rudy

loop-kaymer-fifth-hole-shot-518.jpgComing off a spectacular bogey on the fourth hole -- his second of the day -- Martin Kaymer's six-shot lead at the start of play was down to four. He then tugged his drive on the par-5 fifth hole into the native area, drawing a patchy lie. Another bad swing could have clipped his cushion even more, but he hit what could end up being the definitive shot of the tournament -- a drawing 7-iron to five feet, setting up an eagle that would get him back to even for the day and stabilize his front nine.

"The key to success out of those waste areas is the same as it is from a fairway bunker," says ESPN Swing Coach Jerome Andrews. "He kept his legs very quiet and his center in line with the ball, and made an arms-only swing. You can see in the slow-motion replay how he made just perfect contact with the ball first, and then the dirt. It was a terrific shot."

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Kaymer's 7-iron carried just shy of 200 yards on the shot thanks to a flier lie, baked out conditions and world-class talent. When you try it home, take a club or two more than you would normally from the yardage and choke up on the handle. "That will give you enough distance without promotion an out-of-control swing," says Andrews, the Director of Instruction at Spring Creek Golf Club outside Charlottesville, Va. "You want your feet to be stable in the sand, which you can't do if you're swinging out of your shoes."



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