November 27, 2012
This shot gets real easy once you realize it's as simple as a putting stroke. Anything that feels awkward or like an extra movement is wrong. All you want is clean contact. To consistently get the clubface to strike the ball and then the turf, I set up with my weight mostly on my left foot. My feel is to keep the clubhead directly under my hands through impact. If the clubhead passes the hands, it means the wrists are breaking down and scooping at the ball. If the clubhead lags, the ball is going to come out low and hot. For more height, use a shorter backswing and a longer follow-through.
Nothing's sweeter than saving par when nobody in your group, including you, thought it was possible. Enter the flop shot. To hit a high, soft flopper that barely rolls after it bounces, most golfers know to address the ball with an open stance and an open clubface. But the common mistake is to grip the club and then twist the face open. Let the clubface lay open behind the ball first, then take your normal grip. This keeps your wrists in a neutral position so you can hinge them on the backswing and follow-through like mirror images. Think about sliding the face under the ball. Commit to a full, fluid motion, and be sure your belly button faces the target at the finish.
If the ball is below your feet, it's difficult to get the club's leading edge to rest even with the slope. The risk of blading the ball is high. Your first job is to get stable, so feel your weight in your heels as you take your stance. Even if you like to choke down on chip shots, here you need to hold the top end of the grip to maintain a reasonable posture. Open the clubface slightly to make the toe lay lower than the heel, then swing the club outside on the takeaway. Deliver the club back across the ball through impact. When the clubhead travels out to in, the leading edge effectively slides up the slope. This makes pure contact easier.
A putter is always the safe play from a firm, tightly mowed area just off the green, but if the slope runs away, you might need the spin of a lob wedge to stop the ball. I want very little body movement on this scary shot, so I set my hips open at address. This gets my lower body out of the way so I can concentrate on swinging down the target line. If you tend to blade or chunk these little shots, don't toy with ball position. Just try putting more weight on your front foot. The club will bottom out wherever your weight is. And remember, spin comes from speed, so go at this shot with some guts.
MY PUTTING COUNTDOWN
My goal this year was to bring my stroke from the practice green--where sometimes it seems I make everything--to the course. When a putt was important, I had a bad habit of taking extra time over it, which threw off my rhythm. So I started counting to five in my head. Each count corresponds to a part of my routine (below, left). It helps me stay natural and reactive.NICK WATNEY is a five-time winner on the PGA Tour. In 2012, he ranked eighth in total distance of putts holed (78 feet per round).Watney's favorite cause: Birdies For The Brave