BUILT FOR ACCURACY
Johnson's follow-through is his signature move
by Ron Kaspriske
When analyzing Zach Johnson's swing -- to see why he was in the top eight in driving accuracy on the PGA Tour in 2007 and '08 -- it's best to start at the finish and work backward.
"There are a lot of players who can do what Zach does from backswing to impact," says his teacher, Mike Bender, "but not a lot who can do what he does from impact to follow-through."
Specifically, getting the right arm and shaft on nearly a straight line pointing at the target after impact (frame 7). There's no early re-hinging of the club -- a move you see in a lot of players. Bender says Johnson's follow-through is reminiscent of Ben Hogan's and a big reason Johnson doesn't miss many fairways. "When you get the right arm and shaft on a straight line like that, it keeps the clubface square and on line longer," Bender says.
It's a follow-through that was grooved out of necessity, says Johnson. His average driving distance of 275 yards in 2008, for example, ranked 181st out of 195 PGA Tour players. So his best chance of competing at the highest level is to control the ball off the tee. That strategy has paid off: Including his Masters triumph in 2007 and a victory at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January, he has had four tour wins and 10 top-10 finishes the past two years.
"Obviously you want to swing harder to get it farther out there," Johnson says, "but for me it's all about position. The smoother I swing, the more opportunities I'll have for birdies."
Johnson knows he'll never be as long as the big-hitters, but he has worked with Bender to squeeze extra yardage out of his tee shots.
"Over the years he had shifted his hands back in his setup," Bender says. "He could still hit golf shots with his hands back, but I showed him how much more solid he could hit the ball with his hands forward. So we've moved them up, and he's having his best year ever in terms of ball striking.