Tips From The Tour
Justin Thomas won the 2021 Players thanks to this low, sweeping draw. Here's how he did it
One of the lasting images from last year’s Players Championship was the low, sweeping draw Justin Thomas played on the weekend—setting up a roaring come-from-behind victory at TPC Sawgrass. His ability to cut the corner on the 16th and 18th holes (though he came very close to disaster on 18) was a strategic move with a lot of thought behind it.
Understanding Thomas’ approach to this shot and how he hits it is crucial for average golfers looking to add a go-to tee shot to rely on in clutch situations. So we asked Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Sara Dickson to dive deeper into this crucial tee shot.
How to find a reliable tee shot under pressure:
Most of the time, when tour players need to curve the ball, they hit a knockdown shot, hold the club off or release it more than normal. But when players rely on the timing of their hands, it can fail them when they need it most, Dickson says.
JT seems to have cracked the code. By adjusting his setup and swinging normally, he is able to produce these controlled hook shots more consistently under pressure, as evidenced by the clip below:
Watch the below video:
“Looking at Thomas’ setup, the first thing I notice is his stance-to-face relationship,” Dickson says.
When Thomas sets up to the ball, he closes his stance to his target and aims his clubface halfway between the target line and his body line. This allows his clubface to remain closed in relation to the path he’s swinging on, which Dickson says is key to creating a draw-biased swing.
It also opens the clubface in relation to the target line, which maintains the trajectory and keeps the ball from overdrawing.
Thomas also moves the ball back in his stance—about an inch—and tees it down slightly. Positioning the ball further back moves the path of the club out to the right, which is necessary for hitting a draw. It also promotes a downward strike, which imparts more right-to-left spin on the ball and creates that low, penetrating ball flight, Dickson says.
While Thomas utilized this shot at The Players Championship in 2021, Dickson expects that he’ll use it again this year, but not for the reason you think.
“If I’ve learned anything from tour players and their coaches, it’s that nothing is an accident, and they’re always preparing for something bigger,” Dickson says.
Tour players often use high-pressure situations in other events as a way to practice more skilled shots they’ve been perfecting for specific venues, Dickson says. We saw JT use the low, controlled hook off the 13th tee last year at the Masters—and we’d bet last year’s Players champion will look to work on the shot again this week.
Whether it results in another victory remains to be seen.