13 genius tips Tiger, Spieth, Rory and JT revealed during The Match
The seventh edition of Capital One's The Match was, for golf nerds, the best one yet. While Justin Thomas separated himself from the pack as an elite and at times genuinely hilarious trash-talker, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and JT double as four of the most intelligent golfers in the game today.
Throughout the broadcast the foursome dropped little bits of genius about how they play the game, at times without them even noticing. It was the best part of the broadcast, so let's break down some of those nuggets.
1. Weight with the slope
Early in the match, Spieth faced a bunker shot that would give the rest of us fits: the ball on a downslope, with not much green between the ball and the pin. Spieth talked the commentators through the shot, and made it sound so simple.
“You’re trying to get your weight with the slope. I’m on a downslope, so I’ve got about 65 percent of my weight on my front foot. You’re really trying to create loft under the ball.”
2. What moisture does to your golf shots
A common theme throughout the broadcast was players and commentator Trevor Immelman talking about one of the more unique challenges of playing night golf was the large amount of dew on the grass. Players alluded multiple times on the broadcast what that means for them: More dew on the grass means more water on the golf ball, which decreases the amount of spin. It was an extra wrinkle pros had to plan for, especially on shots that required lots of curve.
"The worst thing that could happen here is if the ball just stays dead straight," JT said before his hook wedge shot into the final hole of the match.
3. Know when to pay attention to your shadow
There are few things more annoying than having to swing through your shadow. On the third hole, the location of the lights placed the players' shadow directly over the golf ball. Sometimes, the shadow can prove a useful tool for your own swing—to see if your head is staying still, for instance. But Spieth warned it can be misleading, too.
"I didn't know if it was way forward in my stance or way back," Spieth said.
4. Feel like your arms move slower for draw
On the one-club challenge hole, Tiger chose to hit two high, roping hooks to get the most out of his club of choice. It led to a pretty awe-inspiring shot tracer along the way, and offered fans a solid reminder of Tiger's draw formula: that he feels like his arms are moving slower than his body on the downswing, which helps his club move more from in-to-out.
5. Find 'bargaining chips' putts
There were some great match play strategy nuggets littered throughout the Match, but this was the best one I learned along the way. On one hole, Rory ran his lag putt to about three feet past the hole.
The putt was probably good, but not knowing if he'd need to make it to win the hole, Spieth told him to mark it. He and JT wanted to keep the putt as a bargaining chip, Spieth jokingly said. AKA, a putt they they didn't want to give to them too soon, in case they left themselves with their own testy putt and wanted to go good-good instead.
6. Re-read putts after you miss them
On the sixth hole, JT missed a short putt to win the hole. The rest of us probably would've stormed off the green at this point, annoyed, onto the next. JT did the opposite. He was the last player to leave the green. Instead, JT called his teammate Spieth over, asked his advice, re-read the putt, and hit it a few more times. It's a small but important note. The putt may not have ended the way JT wanted, but JT was still going to learn a little something about it, so next time, the putt goes in.
7. Read your chips
Speaking of reading stuff, Tiger got annoyed with himself after this chip for mis-reading it. Another good reminder that just because your chipping, you should be reading the slopes just as you were a putt. It's that kind of attention to detail that makes Tiger, Tiger.
8. Know how to play the mud
Spieth had a classic mudball situation late in The Match, so let's take the opportunity to review the effect mud has on your golf ball: Mud will send your ball in the opposite direction of whatever side it's on. A ball with mud on the left side of the ball, for example, sends the ball to the right. In Jordan's case, a large glob of mud was on the top of the ball, which he said would keep the ball really low.
"There's a 60-percent chance I'll top this," he said, joking.
9. Aim at course features, not pins
I found it interesting that throughout The Match how the players wouldn't ever aim at the pin, even when they were aiming at the pin. Instead, they'd effectively ignore the pin, and aim for a light, or a tree, or something else in their landscape. Something that was a little easier to commit to.
"I'm going to aim at the left edge of that bunker, and hopefully it'll end up close," JT said.
10. "Did you spin it?"
Multiple times during The Match different players asked, "did you spin it?" It's an interesting line for a few different reasons:
First, it shows how incredible players' attention to detail is.
And second, because it shows how focused players are on controlling the spin on their shots.
Immelman at one point explained what causes the differences in spin: Because of the GEAR affect of the driver, where you hit the ball on the driver face affects the way the ball flies. A ball hit slightly "lower" on the driver face, Immelman explains, will spin slightly more than one hit slightly higher on the face.
11. Tiger's draw bunker tip
On the second-to-last hole of The Match, JT found himself in the opposite situation of Spieth: His ball was in a bunker, but was on an upslope. So JT said he enlisted a shot that Tiger taught him: the "draw" bunker shot. It's a great shot when the ball is on the upslope, he explained, because it prevents the club from digging (which it can do easily from this lie).
"I stand a little wider, a little further from the ball, and choke down a bit," JT explains.
12. Lift your heel for more power
On the 10th and final hole, JT said he was going to get after one. He targeted 180 mph ball speed (he touched 179 mph in the end). How did he squeeze that extra power out of his swing? By lifting his lead heel off the ground, a move he said he's been practicing for these occasions.
"Did you do the foot thing?" Tiger asked JT.
Tiger then made a few practice swings of his own, lifting his left heel off the ground.
"Uh oh, somebody bring the cart onto the tee," JT said.
13. Thin it off the pine straw
Spieth made the putt to win the match for his team. He hit the shot that preceeded it from the pine straw. It was a dicey one, too: A wedge off wet pinestraw to a green sloping from right-to-left towards water, Spieth talked the audience through his one and only thought when he finds himself on the pinestraw.
"I just try to catch the ball a little thin," he says.