Rickie Fowler wasn't known as a closer.
That's all changed, thanks to four birdies and an eagle over the final six holes--and another two birdies in four playoff holes--to win the Players Championship.
In a stretch of obviously excellent golf, two shots stood out most. At the 16th, Fowler had 245 yards to the hole on the par 5, and took an aggressive line with his 3-wood over the water right at the flag. He left himself two feet for eagle, and converted to pull within two of the lead. Then, needing birdie on 18, Fowler again took an aggressive line, hammering his tee shot right down the water line with a slight draw, ending up 115 yards from the hole.
"Rickie trusted his swing under maximum pressure against the best field in golf on one of the most demanding courses on tour," says top Maryland teacher Bernie Najar, who is the Director of Instruction at Caves Valley Golf Club in Ownings Mills. "That comes from sound mechanics and courage."
On the 3-wood at 16, Fowler made pure contact to produce the height required to both clear the water and stop on the green. "You can see him striking it with a slight descending blow, which produced that beautiful trajectory," says Najar. "If you're struggling with your fairway woods, it's probably because your impact is too shallow, and you're trying to help the ball in the air. Practice hitting these shots feeling like you're squeezing the ball off the turf and you'll start seeing your ball flight improve."
Here's another tip from Najar, on improving your bunker play: