Other than Bill Haas with his Fed-Ex Cup bonus, who won more money playing golf around the globe than anyone else in 2011? The answer is Luke Donald, who is also the current No. 1 player in the World Ranking. And what was the key to his success this year? A better short game.
He contends that a couple of years ago he was struggling with his full swing, missing a lot of fairways and greens, so he was forced to improve his putting, chipping and pitching. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. Then, he figured out his full swing, and because his short game was so much better, he became the best player in the world.
What can we learn from that? When you really want to improve your scoring, work on shots around the green. And when you want to become the best you can be, work on your weaknesses.
Donald wrote a cover story on this subject for the October issue of Golf Digest (Short Game Do's and Don'ts). One of the most interesting points he made was about chipping. He wants you to accelerate to the ball, but finish low. That is such a good tip, but most players do just the opposite, taking the club back shorter and making a longer follow-through. This causes them to pull up on the ball so the club bottoms out too early. The result is fat or thin shots, and in severe cases the dreaded double-hit.
Here's what Donald says to do:
"With chipping, I set up to make a downward strike: I play the ball slightly back in my stance, move my weight a touch left, and lean the shaft toward the target. Then I keep my wrists firm on the backswing and accelerate the clubhead to the ball, not through the ball. I'm not looking to sweep this shot off the turf. I want to make a crisp, downward hit, keeping the clubhead low in the finish."
Try it this weekend. On shots around the green, finish with the clubhead staying below your left knee, your hands slightly ahead of the clubhead. I bet you'll strike your chips and short pitches more solidly, and you'll eliminate the skulls and fat shots from your short game.
Photo by J.D. Cuban