Ernie Els's one-over 72 at Muirfield last Saturday was his worst
score of the week by two strokes, but the round was perhaps the
best of his career. In the end Els won the claret jug because he
thrived on a day when many of the world's best players, including
Tiger Woods, couldn't break 80 in the freezing rain and 30-mph
wind that blitzed Muirfield.
THE BIG LOWIE To understand Els's extraordinary ability to
flourish in nasty weather, you have to think of his swing as a
powerful car, with Ernie sitting contentedly behind the wheel.
Even in the wind and rain he has power in reserve, allowing him
to execute a conservative play called the lowie, a three-quarter
swing that produces a low, penetrating ball flight, the perfect
trajectory for cheating the weather. So while most guys were
vainly searching for their swing on Saturday, Els calmly relied
on his lowie, including a seven-iron approach to the first green
(above) that set the tone for his crucial round.
BUNKER BASICS Els is perhaps the best bunker player in golf, but
the two impossible-looking shots he stiffed on Sunday--at 13 in
regulation and at 18 on the last hole of the playoff--were
actually pretty easy for such a seasoned player. At 13 Els's ball
was in a furrow on an upslope, which forced him to swing extra
hard, causing the ball to rise quickly and clear the steep bunker
wall. His stance at 18, with his right leg bent backward at the
knee and his right foot propped on the bunker's back lip,
positioned his body perfectly for the steep descending blow that
he needed to execute the shot. "I just had to keep my balance,"
THREE'S NOT A CHARM Woods's sometimes ordinary iron game was
exposed last week, as he eschewed driver off most tees, which
forced him to play approaches into greens from the same distances
as the rest of the field. That reduced Woods from invincible to
very good, because a lot of other Tour players hit their approach
irons as precisely as he does. For proof, look at the Tour's
par-3 birdie leaders. Woods ranks a lowly 121st.
OLD NEWS I'm tired of the whining that course setups at the
majors have become unfair. Major championship venues have always
been unfair, because the primary goal is to challenge the
players' patience. I know from experience. At the '83 U.S. Open
at Oakmont, I cozied a downhill putt at number 2 toward the hole,
but instead of dying near the cup, the ball kept going until it
scooted down to the front of the green and came to rest 40 yards
from where it had started. Now that's unfair.
Carl Lohren, 64, teaches at Ballen Isle Country Club in Palm
Beach Gardens, Fla., and is one of Golf Magazine's Top 100
THREE COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF ABC (TOP)
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PORTER BINKS (2)
To play well in bad conditions, you need to have the lowie in
your arsenal. The lowie is a three-quarter swing that produces a
low-trajectory shot perfect in the wind and rain. Here are five
keys to pulling it off.
1. Use at least one extra club. With the extra stick, even a
mishit will still have a chance to reach the green.
2. Choke down. This gives you greater control of the club.
3. Narrow your stance by 25%. A normal base with a choked-down
grip won't permit a full weight shift.
4. Move the ball back in your stance. This delofts the club face,
leading to a lower ball flight.
5. An abbreviated backswing (B)--as opposed to the complete turn
of a standard shot (A)--and a shorter follow-through are ideal,
but don't feel that you have to make a conscious effort to
adjust the length of your swing. Choking down and moving the
ball back in your stance will naturally shorten your action.