November 2, 2015

How He Hit That: Justin Thomas' bullseye bunker play

For an entire season, Justin Thomas was the hot young kid minutes away from breaking his first PGA Tour win. Three weeks into the new year, he finally punched through.

Using a second-round 61 to stake his lead and shooting 67-66 on the weekend, Thomas broke the tournament scoring record at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and beat Adam Scott by a shot.

One place Thomas saved at least one stroke was on the par-4 13th, where he holed out a greenside bunker shot for an unlikely birdie. He splashed it out five feet short, and the ball rolled in like a putt.

"Justin hits behind the ball like every player gets taught, but the important thing is that the bottom of his swing is under the ball," says top Virginia teacher Leighann Albaugh, who is the director of instruction at Independence Golf Club in Midlothian. "A lot of players get so caught up in hitting two inches behind the sand that they miss the other half of the story -- that the club has to come out two inches in front of where the ball was in the sand."

Thomas' technique is ideal, but Albaugh says his pre-shot approach is just as crucial to good shots. "He's totally target focused," says Albaugh. "He's not bogged down looking at the ball, or worrying about how he's going to make contact with the sand. He makes some smooth waggles, hits the shot and does what I tell people all the time -- he turns his tummy to the target."

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