MIRROR IMAGE: My follow-through is the mirror image of my backswing -- proof that I've stayed on plane throughout the swing.
Every successful player has a go-to shot that holds up under the most intense pressure. Mine is a stinger or knockdown shot off the tee with a fairway wood. I've used it many times and in all kinds of conditions. It's my ultimate control shot. Although it's conservative in nature, it's also a scoring shot because it helps me avoid trouble while putting me in position to play aggressively into the green when necessary.
My stinger has evolved over the years as my knowledge of the golf swing has developed. The No. 1 key to hitting this shot is making an on-plane swing. I also focus on turning the back of my left hand down so it faces the ground more at impact. I start my release when the shaft is parallel to the ground, turning my left hand downward, which delofts the club. I knock the ball down not by leaning on it or moving forward but with the release.
I also want to keep my arms relaxed through impact. Trying to muscle the ball results in a poor release and a higher shot with more backspin -- the opposite of what I want.
Trigger the trap
Lean the shaft forward to pinch the ball off the turf
I wouldn't consider myself a "digger," but I definitely take a divot on most iron shots, even off the tee. I believe it's a great way to control spin, trajectory and ball flight.
A lot of high-handicappers don't understand the concept of trapping the ball between the clubface and the ground. They either swing too steeply and pound the club into the turf, hitting it chunky, or they stop moving the lower body through impact, which causes inconsistent contact. The shaft must be leaning toward the target through impact for the clubface to pinch the ball and produce a divot on the forward side.
For this to happen, the lower body must lead the downswing, keeping the hands from flipping and maintaining proper timing in the swing. Also, the left wrist (for right-handers) must turn down gradually to keep the clubface from closing too quickly through impact. The legs must lean toward the target slightly, indicating that the lower body is leading and weight is transferring. The lower body triggers the trap.
Q: Have you changed putters since you turned pro?
-- James Legg / Danbury, Conn.__
A: I've used the same one since the Byron Nelson in 1999 -- a Scotty Cameron Newport model. It's been re-shafted twice, though.
Q: What's the best sporting event you've been to as a fan?
-- Rich Recchia / Providence, R.I.__
A: I'd have to say the Pete Newell Challenge at the Oakland Arena in 2000, a college basketball game. My team, Stanford, upset top-ranked Duke on a last-second shot by Casey Jacobsen. I was sitting courtside, and I think that's the highest I ever jumped.
Q: What are your favorite and least favorite parts of playing in a pro-am round?
-- Janice Steenquist / Philadelphia__
A: The good part is, you get to meet some great guys and stay in touch with them. It can be a lot of fun. The bad part is, you sometimes get paired with guys who think they should win the whole thing so they take it too seriously. They're not out there to have fun, and it becomes a grind. It can drag the group down. That's probably happened to me a dozen times since I turned pro.
Tiger Woods writes instruction articles only for Golf Digest.
Mark Soltau is a contributing editor to Golf Digest and the editor of TigerWoods.com.