PGA Championship

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Approach Shots

Want To Hit Your Fairway Woods Like Rory? Get Steeper.

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Nothing punctuates a tournament victory like an exclamation point.

Rory McIlroy's was a second-shot approach from 255 yards on the par-5 18th at the Irish Open. McIlroy hit a 3-wood missile in the near-freezing cold to two feet, wrapping up what he candidly called the most important non-major on his schedule.

The conventional wisdom on fairway wood shots has long been to sweep the ball off the turf, but McIlroy actually does the opposite -- and that's something the average player should try to copy.

"Rory obviously has a fantastic swing, but if you were going identify one tiny issue with it, he tends to get 'under the plane,'" says Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher Brian Manzella, who is based at English Turn Golf & Country Club in New Orleans. "In normal humans, getting below the plane -- coming in low and hard from inside to out -- means you won't have enough loft on the club at impact, and you won't be able to get down to the ball cleanly, especially on a tight lie."

But McIlroy makes a slight in-swing adjustment to come into impact more steeply than normal, and his speed and precise strike produces the super-high shots you see on highlight reels. "For him, it probably feels like he's on top of it more, and he's making more of a cut swing," says Manzella. "He just unwinds hard and smashes it. If he used that swing all the time, he'd never lose."

For a lot of weekend players players, the fairway wood is their favorite club, because they already have an over-the-top and steep plane, says Manzella. "But if you're the kind of player who gets under plane, you probably want to throw your fairway woods away," he says. "To fix that, you can use your driver as a training aid. Find a fluffy lie in some short rough and try to hit some smooth 150-yard shots with your driver. If you get too much under plane, you'll lose the loft and smother it. Don't be afraid to get a little steeper."