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Swing keys

Lexi Thompson’s ‘draw’ transition, Ludvig Aberg’s tee hack and 4 more tips—what you can learn from last week's mixed-team event

December 12, 2023
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Photos by Cliff Hawkins

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Grant Thornton Invitational, the first mixed-team tournament in nearly 25 years, was seeing the diversity of swings among players from both the PGA Tour and the LPGA. In the winning team, Jason Day gushed over Lydia Ko’s exceptional wedge play and her ability to take spin off the ball. Likewise, Ko admired Day’s power off the tee, making sure to head back to the men’s tee on the final hole so she could watch one more long drive.

To help you learn from how the best on both tours hit certain shots, we’ve gathered images and videos from the week and identified a few specific takeaways for each. From Lexi Thompson’s “draw” transition to Jason Day’s knockdown shot, here’s what you can learn from the Grant Thornton Invitational.

Lexi Thompson: “Draw” transition

Thompson is one of the longest players on the LPGA Tour, and when she played against the men in the Shriners Children’s Open earlier this fall, she averaged over 300 yards off the tee. As our Luke Kerr-Dineen wrote that week, much of Thompson’s distance comes from hitting a flat (low-spin) draw, which maximizes roll when it lands.

Thompson hits this draw by being patient in transition. Notice how as she starts her downswing, her back stays completely facing the target, allowing her hands and arms to fall straight down. This is what teachers refer to as the club falling into “the slot,” which allows you to hit from the inside and create a slight draw. (Check out Best in State teacher Joe Plecker’s 4-step recipe for hitting a draw.)

Cheyenne Knight and Andrea Lee: Rotary vs. shift

The below impact positions of LPGA Tour winners Knight and Lee illustrate a fascinating contrast. Notice how on the left, Knight’s left leg is straight at impact, and her hips are well open and facing the target. Her left heel is off the ground, showing the incredible rotation she has as she “snaps” her left leg.

On the right, Lee is the opposite. Her left leg is bent, her hips are open but far less so than Knight and her left heel is planted. Knight has a very rotational downswing, whereas Lee is shifting more weight into her lead leg and not rotating as hard.

The most interesting part is that neither pattern is demonstrably better. Both players ranked outside the top 135 in driving distance this year and both were inside the top 15 on tour in driving accuracy. With both patterns creating a consistent ball flight, the key for you is to identify if you have more rotation or more shift in the downswing, and then mimic the respective impact position. Golf Digest Best in State teacher Joe Plecker shows you can how to blend both moves together to create an efficient downswing.

Jason Day: 3/4 keys

Distance control is one of the most underrated skills in golf and is key to improving your iron play. You can hit it pin high more often by learning a 3/4 shot, which you can use when you’re in between clubs. Day demonstrates this here, as he is gripping down and making a much shorter backswing than usual. Yet, he stays aggressive through the ball as he would on a full shot, before a crisp, abbreviated finish.

Ludvig Aberg: Set up smarter

Tour pros and elite players almost never set up in the middle of the tee markers. They are almost always trying to work the ball one way or another and setting up on the far edge of the teeing area helps create an angle. Notice how Aberg is teed up all the way on the left, indicating he is trying to hit a slight draw.

By setting up on the left, you are giving yourself a better angle to start the ball to the right and curve it back. Conversely, if you work the ball from left to right, consider teeing the ball up on the right edge of the tee box, so that you can give yourself the most room to aim up the left and curve it back. This subtle strategy will help any hole fit your ball flight.

Lydia Ko: Divot with a wood

Fairway woods are some of the most difficult clubs for amateurs to hit, largely because they’re not sure whether to use a driver swing, where they hit up on the ball, or an iron swing, where they hit down and compress the ball. Amateurs often fall back with their upper body as they try to help the ball in the air.

Ko demonstrates the opposite here, as she is taking a divot and is “covering” the ball, with her upper body stacked over her lower half. She is not hanging back, but instead staying on top of the ball with a full release of her arms. Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Alana Swain explains how you can learn this technique.

Rose Zhang: Shallow it out

The phenom who won in her first professional start on the LPGA Tour has arguably the best swing in the game, man or woman. Much of her excellent ball-striking comes from her transition, where she allows the clubhead to shallow out behind her before she rotates hard through the ball. She is doing the opposite of the killer “jackknife” mistake that Luke Kerr-Dineen wrote about here.

The PGA Tour posted this fantastic video on Twitter last week highlighting the path of Zhang’s clubhead. Notice how the downswing line is below the backswing path. Zhang allows the clubhead to fall behind her in transition, which allows her to approach the ball from the inside, on a shallow path.