How He Hit ThatJune 16, 2016

There's nothing easy about Oakmont's rough, even pitching out sideways from it

OAKMONT, PA - JUNE 14:  Ernie Els of South Africa watches his shot from the rough during the first round of the 107th U.S. Open Championship at Oakmont Country Club on June 14, 2007 in Oakmont, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Getty ImagesOAKMONT, PA - JUNE 14: Ernie Els of South Africa watches his shot from the rough during the first round of the 107th U.S. Open Championship at Oakmont Country Club on June 14, 2007 in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

It's become almost a trademark of every sentence about Oakmont's rough.

"...and all you can do from there is pitch it back to the fairway."

Sure, but doing that isn't as simple as, say, taking a drop after hitting one in the water. It takes real technique--and muscle--to execute the "get-back-into-play" safety pitch, especially when the rough has some moisture in it like Thursday's.

"You've heard it a thousand times, but it's still true -- you can't even imagine how thick and difficult that grass is," says Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher and short game guru Kevin Weeks. "If you don't hit this shot exactly right, the club won't get to the ball, the ball won't move, and you'll be looking at doing it all over again."

The mistake many players make -- tour players included -- is trying to hit the shot like playing something out of a bunker, coming in a few inches behind the ball with a big swing and a high finish. "If you do that, you aren't sending enough of the energy down into the grass around the ball," says Weeks. "The club will catch that grass and flat out stop."

You know, like Tony Finau's.

Instead, the technique is more like that of a low greenside shot or a one from a buried bunker lie. "Play the ball back in your your stance a few inches, but keep your center of gravity forward, over your lead leg," says Weeks, who is based at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont, IL. "Hinge your wrists in the backswing, pick the club up and chop down on the ball, keeping that left wrist braced and firm. All of the speed should be going down, into the ground, which will produce an abbreviated finish that doesn't go much past your shin."


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