Bubba Watson doesn't play like anybody else on the PGA Tour, and it isn't because he uses a pink driver. The lanky lefthander often curves his tee shots 40 yards from right to left, and his course-management strategy is improvisational on its best day.
So it was fascinating to watch Watson secure a place in a playoff with Tim Clark at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China by holing a bunker shot he hit with an utterly conventional swing -- if he were playing from the fairway. "If you overlaid the swing he used there in the sand with one where he was hitting a soft pitch from the fairway, they'd look almost the same," says top Georgia teacher Brandon Stooksbury. "He didn't do anything different because he was in the bunker.
"Bubba hit what I would call a chunk and run shot," says Stooksbury, who teaches at the Idle Hour Country Club in Macon. "His technique was specifically designed to take a lot of sand and produce a shot that came out and had some run to it. He moved the ball to the middle of his stance, instead of near his lead foot, so he could take a very steep angle of attack."
If Watson had hit the shot like a "standard" greenside bunker shot, with the ball forward in his stance and the goal of taking a thin cut of sand, the ball would have come out high with plenty of backspin before it checked and stopped. Instead, it rolled to the hole like a putt and got him into extra frames against Clark. He would birdie the first one to take home his first WGC title -- and $1.4 million.
"It's a great lesson for the average player," Stooksbury says. "You don't have to change your swing a whole lot for the sand and do some kind of one-off thing. You just want to change your ball position to accommodate what you're trying to do. In this case, the goal is to trust the loft of the club to get the ball out and make a big enough swing to produce that big divot and move all that sand."