The Local Knowlege

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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How He Hit That

How He Hit That: Kaymer's laser drives on Day 2 of the U.S. Open

By Matthew Rudy

Martin Kaymer is laying a beatdown for the ages, and his gaudy 25-for-28 fairways hit stat is part of the reason why. As good as the accuracy number is, it doesn't even tell the complete story. Kaymer has not only hit fairways, he's done it primarily with driver, averaging 301 yards off the tee. He has found the ideal lanes within most fairways to leave himself makable birdie chances, and he's coverting thanks to a hot putter. 

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"When you watch him over these two days, and for most of the Players Championship as well, he's been so consistent with his driver motion," says ESPN Swing Coach Jerome Andrews. "The club and arms start back, but his belt buckle and shirt buttons stay pointed at the ball and his feet, knees and hips remain quiet. When the club, arms and body are synchronized this way, you have a lot of control over your ball, and if you do miss, the shot doesn't go too far off line."

That kind of control and distance off the tee breeds confidence, and Kaymer has turned it into 11 birdies against a lone bogey, and the 36-hole U.S. Open scoring record. 

"He unwinds into the ball with the same great synchronization, which gives him the freedom to really explode through the ball," says Andrews, who is the Director of Instruction at the Spring Creek Golf Club outside Charlottesville, Va. "You can tell all the left-to-right holes there really suit his eye, and he's enjoying going after those tee shots with that controlled aggression. It's an impressive display."


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Instruction

How He Hit That: Jonas Blixt's cross-handed putting

Editor's Note: Every Monday Kevin Hinton, Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, tells you how a tour player hits a key shot. This week, Kevin looks at the putting style of Frys.com Open champion Jonas Blixt.

By Kevin Hinton

With his win at the Frys.com Open, Jonas Blixt became the third rookie to win on the PGA Tour this year. Jonas' superb putting made up for an average week of ball-striking, where he finished only T-59th in greens in regulation. Blixt led the field in total putts, with 25 putts in the final round and only 105 for the week. He also completed the event without a three-putt. Remarkably, this was Blixt's third consecutive event without three-putting. His last was 243 holes ago, during the third round of the Barclays on August 25th. Blixt currently leads the PGA Tour in the statistical putting category of stroke gained, which is considered to identify the tour's best putter.

blixt_470.jpgBelow we look at Blixt's cross-handed putting style, and whether it's something that might benefit your game.

Benefits to Cross-Handed Putting

Level is better
 
By putting "left-hand low," it becomes much easier to level your shoulders at address than with conventional putting. This will also help to level out your eyeline. Many people struggle with their putting simply because they have too much tilt at address.

Turn off the electricity

Similar to the variations of the "claw" grip, putting cross-handed can help eliminate the right hand from taking over at impact. The grip can definitely reduce a players' potential for yipping. The belly and long putters also attempt to counter any unwanted electricity at impact, but cross-handed often offers a much shorter learning curve than these other methods.

Winds of change

If you are struggling with your putting, the simplest fix can be just to change. Change your putter, change your grip, change your routine. . . change anything! Putting is so mental, and in theory should be so simple, sometimes all we need is a different perspective or a fresh loo. Switching to cross-handed just may provide that.  




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Instruction

How He Shot That: Branden Grace Fires a 60

Editor's Note: Every Monday Kevin Hinton, Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, tells you how a tour player hits a key shot. This week, Kevin describes how Branden Grace won for the fourth time this year on the European Tour by shooting a 60 at Kingsbarns enroute to capturing the Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday. Kevin offers his tips for going low and shooting your best possible score.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter: @RogerSchiffman

By Kevin Hinton
Twitter: @KevinHintonGolf



There are several things about Branden's swing I like, but one aspect in particular is the loose, free-swinging action he creates. One reason he can create this look is that he allows his left arm to bend in his backswing. Amateurs often report to me that their struggles are being caused by their failure to "keep the left arm straight," which closely trails only "I pulled my head up" as the most common complaint I hear.

The reality is, neither of those things are fundamentals to playing great golf. In addition to Branden, there are numerous examples of world-class players who have bent left arms at the top of the swing, as well as a few notable examples of great players whose left arm is bent at impact--Lee Westwood and Retief Goosen are the first that come to mind. Here are a few benefits you might notice by softening your left arm in your swing.

Lack of tension                                                                                                                    There is no easier way to add tension to your swing than by trying to keep your left arm unrealistically straight. Most people are not flexible enough to do so, and as they try, the tension in their swing builds. I'm not suggesting you bend your arm to the degree that the shaft rests on your shoulder, but it's important to find a middle ground. If you're working on straightening your left arm throughout your backswing, be certain to monitor your grip pressure and overall tension level. You might also realize that some stretching might be in order.

Better wrist hinge
In this video, you'll see that as Branden's left arm has reached parallel to the ground in his backswing, he has at least 90 degrees of wrist hinge. His left arm is not straight at this point. It's much easier to properly set the golf club when your left arm is "soft," not rigid or over-extended. By allowing his left arm to bend slightly, his right arm can fold, making it much easier to hinge the club.  

More clubhead speed
The first two points are essential to producing the final product of a golf swing that creates ample clubhead speed. If you are overly tense and do not allow your wrists to hinge and unhinge properly, your potential for speed is significantly limited. I certainly get the argument that a straighter left arm can lead to a wider "arc" to your swing, but I feel for many golfers that the risks outweigh the potential reward. Most amateurs will benefit more by loosening up and allowing the club to swing freely. Branden is a great example of this. ... Read
Instruction

How They Hit That: Ryder Cuppers from the Fairway Bunker

Editor's Note: Every Monday Kevin Hinton, Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and one of Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, tells you how a tour player hits a key shot. This week, Kevin describes how three players in Sunday's compelling Ryder Cup matches hit key shots from the fairway bunker on the 18th hole. Jim Furyk, Francesco Molinari and--most importantly--Martin Kaymer all made solid strikes under tremendous pressure. Here are two tips to improve your fairway bunker play.

Roger Schiffman
Managing Editor
Golf Digest
Twitter: @RogerSchiffman

By Kevin Hinton
Twitter: @KevinHintonGolf

Kaymer.gifMartin Kaymer's lower body stays quiet as he propels the ball out of the 18th-hole fairway bunker onto the green. Photo by J.D. Cuban/Golf Digest

1. Protect against the left
It's extremely easy to over-hook fairway bunker shots. One reason is that it's difficult to keep your hips rotating through impact when you're standing in sand. Also, it's generally a good idea to purposely keep your lower body "quiet" to help ensure solid contact. However, the downside to a more passive lower body through impact is that your arms and hands can take over, causing the clubface to close and the ball to curve left. Knowing this, you might benefit by setting the face slightly open at address, or feeling as if you're hitting a small fade. If the lie is uphill or above your feet--it was both for Molinari--this will also encourage the ball to go left. Managing these variables, as well as the pressure, made the shots of Martin Kaymer, Molinari and Furyk on No. 18 very impressive.

2. It's OK to be shallow
In the downswing, it's important  to create a "shallow" angle of attack into the ball. Your chances of creating solid contact are greatly reduced if you hit down too sharply into the sand. It's much better to err on the side of picking the ball out of the bunker. A slightly thin shot will work fine unless you have a steep lip to hit over. If you imagine the letters "V" and "U," try to make the bottom of your swing look more like a "U." That will encourage a shallow approach into the ball. Notice how tour players don't take that much sand from fairway bunkers. It also can be helpful to analyze your divot after your shot. Ideally, the sand at the bottom of your divot will have similar coloring to that of the rest of the sand in the bunker. If the bottom of your divot is considerably darker, that means you have created too deep a divot and your club is approaching the bottom of the bunker.

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July 28, 2014

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