2 Moves To Groove
Lexi Thompson, the LPGA's newest major champion, shows how to smash it
I've worked with Lexi since she was in grade school. Now, at 19, she's a major winner (after a three-shot victory over Michelle Wie at the Kraft Nabisco in April). What are Lexi's best moves? She's swinging it great right now, especially her positions at the top and through impact. These two spots should be the focus of every golfer. You have to get your body wound and the club set so you can rely on your athleticism coming down. And when it comes to hitting the ball, you have to let it go—no steering or flipping the club. Lexi does that great. She knows she's got the club on track, so she can focus on ripping it. You might not see a lot of yourself in these photos, but you can get closer. Here's what you need to accomplish at these critical spots.
1. TAKING IT BACK
Almost every player who comes to my schools has to learn to draw the ball to improve. That usually means starting back more to the inside. I like the clubhead a little more inside than the hands when the shaft gets parallel to the ground. At that point, the face should be tilted down a touch—the toe not quite straight up.
As you continue back, make sure your wrists are hinging. At halfway, you should have a 90-degree angle between your arm and the shaft. Players obsessed with swinging back wide—a popular tip today—often don't get a full hinge, which you need for power and accuracy.
To turn better, feel like you're stretching your front shoulder behind the ball. And stay relaxed. See Lexi (right, top): She's fully back but doesn't look rigid. The worst move is to grip tighter or lunge forward as you start down.
It's important to note that Lexi sets up slightly open to the target, especially with her short irons. Her natural shot is a draw, so the open stance keeps her from getting the club too far to the inside and encourages a straighter swing path. She takes the club back nice and wide, which gives her that great high-hand position at the top.
Second part. Check out the clubface at the top: The leading edge of the club mirrors her left arm, which means it's square. She used to have the face closed (facing the sky), but we've worked to get it more toe-down. This allows her to hit her iron shots higher and make more consistent contact from tight lies and out of the rough.
Stay inside. Lexi's backswing is actually longer than it used to be, which is the opposite of how a lot of young players change. Lengthening her swing has helped smooth out her tempo to the top, giving her time to start the downswing with her lower body while her arms are still swinging back. I call that a "two-way move," and it's why she has so much power coming down.
2. GOING THROUGH
The move from the top that Lexi and I have worked on is shifting the left knee toward the target so it gets over the left foot. That moves the lower body forward and keeps the club to the inside, on the "attack track." Some players like the feel of bumping the hips forward—whatever you do, you have to go from back foot to front foot.
Once you shift forward, you need to be braced against your front side. Look at how Lexi's left leg is straight at impact (right, bottom). She's got great vertical force, which boosts leverage and really firms up the front side. That gives you something to hit against and rotate around as you go through.
With the club approaching from the inside, you can extend your arms out to the ball, and hit with a flat left wrist. That delofts the face a little for a stronger shot. Every good iron player does that.
There's nothing like ripping a ball out to the right of your target and watching it draw in. Work on these two moves, and you'll be there.
Jim McLean is based at Trump National Doral, Miami.