I made two adjustments to my game in 2016, and it turned out to be the best season I've had as a pro. Three wins; my first major; I led the tour in scoring and finished in the top 10 in 15 of 22 PGA Tour events. What did I change? It started with my driver. I now almost always play a fade. I'm still driving it plenty far.
I averaged 313 yards off the tee last year—but I'm hitting more fairways, and my misses are way better. I don't snap-hook them by accident anymore. That's the first part of my new game plan. The second is that I don't waste those great tee shots. I spent a ton of time dialing in my short-iron distances and now go into every tournament with three stock yardages for each club from 9-iron to lob wedge. The result is that I'm hitting my approaches a lot closer, and I led the tour in birdies. I'll tell you about my technique below, and hopefully you can take my advice and use it to have your best year ever. – With Ron Kaspriske
OFF THE TEE
The best thing about playing a fade is that it's reliable. The second-best thing is you really don't have to make major adjustments to hit the shot. Keep in mind, I don't want the ball to curve a whole lot unless the hole calls for it. More important, the way I hit a fade is not with a glancing blow across the ball. It feels really solid coming off the clubface.
1.) I set up slightly open with my feet, meaning they're aligned a little left of my target (photo above). This puts my body in a position where I can swing on a path that's along my toe line. In other words, out to in in relation to my target. My ball position stays the same, just off my left heel, and my grip pressure is about a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being really tight.
2.) I get a lot of attention because I keep my left wrist bowed as I swing to the top, but this puts the clubface in great position for me to hit that power fade, provided I swing on that out-to-in path on the way down (pictured below). The face is closed in relation to my target, but it's slightly open to the path, and that's what makes it start left but curve back where I want it.
3. Because of my bowed wrist, I don't have to do anything but turn my body and let my arms swing through the ball (pictured below). The clubface and path do the rest.
4.) If I keep turning into a full finish (pictured below), the ball sails. If you stop the swing short, you'll probably hit a weak fade, or maybe even a slice. Keep rotating.
Avg. Driving Distances (YDS) 313.6
2016 PGA Tour Rank: 2
OFF OF THE GREEN
It's such a bad feeling to hit a great drive and then hit a short iron nowhere near the hole. That's why I went to work early last season on figuring out how far I hit those clubs. Being pin high, even if you're a little left or right of the hole, is a key to scoring. I used a TrackMan and kept practicing with each short iron, swinging it three different backswing lengths, and then trying to guess how far the ball would fly. TrackMan would confirm whether I was right or wrong, but it got to the point where I was right 95 percent of the time. To dial in each wedge, here's what I do.
1). I play the ball in roughly the same spot for each club, centered between my feet. I square the face with my target, but I keep my stance line slightly open (photo above), and swing as if I'm playing a fade. It makes it easier to keep the clubface square.
2.) The backswing with each club is key. I'll swing the club halfway back, three-quarters back (pictured below) or make a full backswing depending on how far I want the ball to go. I don't swing harder; just longer. This gives me the three stock yardages with each short iron.
3.) My downswing is always the same. There's really not a lot of wrist action (pictured below). My hands stay quiet, and I turn through the ball at the same pace no matter how far I took it back. It's that fade-swing mentality.
4.) One final thing to remember: Short shots still require a full finish (pictured below). Don't saw off your swing, or distance control will be more of a guessing game.
Approaches 50-125 yards: 16'
2016 PGA Tour Rank: 4