The rule when playing recovery shots is simple: Don't be cute,
just get the ball back into play. When lefty Mike Weir reached
the 10th hole at the TPC at Heron Bay on Sunday, he was 16 under
par and one stroke behind the leader, Joey Sindelar. Weir hooked
his tee shot at the 408-yard par-4, and the ball came to rest
hard against a cluster of thick rye grass in a grove of trees.
He had two options: take an unplayable lie or punch out sideways
by turning a club around and hitting right-handed. He chose
neither. Yes, Weir addressed the ball from the right side with a
turned-around short iron, but he made the mistake of taking a
full swing (above) in an attempt to advance the ball toward the
green. He nearly whiffed, and the ball squirted a few feet to
the right into a worse position. Weir then did what he should
have done in the first place: simply punch out. He hit his next
shot on the green and two-putted for a double bogey. Weir never
recovered, limping home with a 75--the second-worst score of the
day--and finished 11th.
GREENS MACHINE Everybody knows the value of a great short game,
but Matt Kuchar won his first Tour title by taking the axiom to
an extreme. On Sunday he hit only 11 greens in regulation--one
fewer than Weir--but was magical around the greens. During a
back nine 31, Kuchar made sand saves on three consecutive holes
and needed only 11 putts. His closing 66 gave him a stout
two-shot victory. As good as Kuchar's short game was, though, he
had some help. Heron Bay's flat greens and shallow, lipless
bunkers are among the easiest on Tour.
WEIRD SCIENCE Perhaps Weir took a full swing on his first
recovery attempt at number 10 because he's comfortable doing
things from his opposite side. He writes right-handed and says
he can shoot in the 80s as a righty. Nevertheless, he's a
control player, and he should know how foolish it is to turn a
club around and go for broke with a title on the line,
especially given how well he was playing. (He had tied a
three-round tournament scoring record with a 16-under 200.)
Weir's flawed decision making makes me wonder if he will ever
learn how to hold a lead down the stretch. He's now winless in
the five events in which he has led after 54 holes.
Bill Madonna is the director of instruction for the National
Association of Golf Coaches and Educators and one of Golf
Magazine's Top 100 Teachers.
COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY NBC
FOUR COLOR PHOTOS: DAVID BERGMAN (4)
Don't try to be a hero if you have to turn your clubhead around
and hit from the opposite side. Take your medicine and punch
back into play, treating the shot like a long putt. This
requires precision, not power, so follow these guidelines.
1. Position the ball a few inches back of center (picture 1).
2. Roll the grip in your hands until the clubhead is square to
the target (inset). Most amateurs move their hands forward or
backward, major no-nos.
3. Use an abbreviated backswing of no more than a couple of feet
(picture 2) and an extended follow-through (picture 3). Never,
ever cock your wrists. The motion is so similar to lag putting
that I prefer to use a putting grip, but feel free to employ
your regular grip.
Two other things to remember: During the swing keep your lower
body still (don't transfer weight in the backswing or the
follow-through) and use more of a level sweeping motion than a
descending blow. Opposite-side shots usually call for a low
iron--I'm using a four-iron here--because the angle of the
rolled clubface naturally gives you plenty of loft. Remember,
the goal here is pretty simple: Don't shank the shot into a bush.