September 28, 2015

How He Hit That: Jordan Spieth's high, soft bunker shot

Spieth-Bunker-TourChampionship-2015
Getty ImagesATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 27: Jordan Spieth of the United States plays a bunker shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the TOUR Championship By Coca-Cola at East Lake Golf Club on September 27, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Clichés become clichés because they happen all the time -- sort of like Jordan Spieth grinding out crucial up-and-downs down the stretch at an important tournament.

As has become, well, cliche, Spieth isn't the longest or even straightest hitter in golf. What he is is a finisher, and it comes from cleverness and touch around the green, and the confidence and calmness to roll mid-range putts without fear. At the Tour Championship, Spieth played exactly to type. On Sunday, when his ballstriking wasn't at its sharpest, his short game backed him up.

"This might look like a standard bunker shot, but there's a lot more to see here than just that," says top Alabama teacher Tony Ruggiero, who is based at the Country Club of Mobile and hosts The Dewsweepers instruction show on PGA Tour Radio. "It starts with the target line he took. A lot of players get in the sand and aim at the flag and hope. Jordan figured out where his best chance to make a par putt was and aimed his shot there, even if it left him a little farther away."

Spieth's bunker setup also lets him produce high, soft, short shots more easily, says Ruggiero, who also teaches at Bay Point Resort in Panama City Beach, Fla. "He sets up very square to the shot with the face open and his ball position forward. He's also a little farther away from the ball than most people stand, and his stance is wider," says Ruggiero. "That promotes an arms-only swing and gets the bounce of the club hitting the sand. A lot of players open their stance wide, which effectively moves the ball back in the stance. That increases the chance you'll hit the ball first and skull it."

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