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Rickie Fowler: ‘Get More Birdie Looks’

Learn to smash a wood and stiff a wedge, and the course is yours

Photo by Walter Iooss Jr.

In any given round, your score largely comes down to how you play the "tweeners." A tweener is any hole where the par on the scorecard doesn't feel like the par for you. Your expectation lies somewhere between, which means it's an opportunity. If you're a long hitter, a par 5 where you can get on or near the green in two strokes is a tweener. A five almost seems like a bogey, so the hole is essentially a par 4½. More typical for amateurs is facing a par 4 that's a beast, where you're destined to be hitting a fairway wood for the second shot no matter how well you hit the drive. Pitch on and two-putt, and you walk away with a bogey even though you didn't make a mistake. Or make the putt, and that par is a big boost of momentum, almost like a birdie. On the PGA Tour, we even consider some drivable par 4s as tweeners, because you're giving a little back to the field each time you don't make a 3. What do these holes have in common? No matter who you are, the skills to score on them are twofold. You have to be able to smash a wood up around the green and then pitch a wedge close enough to give yourself a good chance to make the putt. The technical keys to these two shots couldn't be more different, but if you can link this combination of power and touch, you can really take advantage of the tweeners. Let me show you how. —With Max Adler


1.) GET DEEP
I like a 3-wood that flies with a small draw and tumbles after it lands. To get this trajectory, the key is a flatter swing that travels more around the body—almost as if you're swinging a baseball bat. Note the deep position of my hands (below). They're behind my hips and heels. From there, I have a ton of space to attack the ball from the inside to get that draw. What you don't want is for the hands to get too high at the top, or they'll come down steeply and take a chunky divot, which is a no-no with a fairway wood. The other fault is swinging too quick. Even though it's a distance club, your primary goal is clean contact, so have a relaxed pause at the top. My tempo with a 3-wood feels as smooth as it does with a short iron.

Photo by Walter Iooss Jr.

2.) RESET FOR FINESSE
Now that you've bashed a 3-wood up by the green, it's time for a more delicate shot. To pitch it on, take a stance that's narrow and slightly open (below). Having the feet close together helps limit lower-body movement for better contact. And standing open encourages a slight out-to-in path, which adds height to the shot so you can hold the green. If you start to freeze over the ball, take one more glance at the flag and then pull the trigger. Because distance control is the priority, an extra look at the target gives your mind a last dose of confidence.

Photo by Walter Iooss Jr.

3.) RELEASE THE CLUB
I see three very positive aspects in this photo (below). It was taken after impact, yet my back heel is just beginning to rise off the turf. That tells me I generated power by using the ground. I also like how the inside of my right wrist is rubbing against the inside of my left wrist. When people talk about releasing the club, this is the move they mean—the clubhead is getting thrown down the target line with speed. Last, notice how you can see a slice of sky between my right shoulder and my chin. I work on posture, and a fault I sometimes battle is getting too hunched over. Not here. I've stayed tall, giving my right shoulder plenty of room to rotate underneath. This ball was spanked.

'The inside of my right wrist is rubbing against the inside of my left.'
Photo by Walter Iooss Jr.

4.) ROTATE SOFTLY
On a pitch shot, there's almost no body turn going back. It's really just the arms softly flowing back into place. The biggest mistake amateurs make is they get tight in the forearms and bring the clubface back shut. Then they stick the leading edge into the ground and flub the shot, or hit it hot over the green. Even on a very short pitch, let the face rotate open as you take it back so the toe of the club points to the sky (below). From there, it's all about swinging down along your toe line and making a ball-first strike. Don't hang back and flip your wrists. Allow your hips and shoulders to rotate so that your chest finishes at the target. Then go sink the putt.

‘Even on a very short pitch, let the face rotate open.’
Photo by Walter Iooss Jr.

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