Jay Haas made the right decision in going for the green on Sunday
at PGA West's watery par-5 18th. Haas had been hitting beautiful
long-iron shots all week and was tied for the lead with Mike
Weir, who had laid up. Haas was playing to win. He dunked the
shot and finished two strokes back, but a four-iron from 194
yards is a routine play any pro would try. Tim Herron, on the
other hand, made a reckless decision that cost him a shot at
victory. Tied for the lead with Haas while playing the par-4
16th, he flew his approach from a fairway bunker over the green
onto the side of a hill, his ball lodging under a couple of
boulders. After taking a penalty for an unplayable lie, Herron
had to then drop onto rocky hardpan. Visibly flustered, he risked
further penalty by cavalierly removing loose impediments, and
then he made a fatal gaffe by opting for an aggressive recovery
shot. Herron swung hard and shallow, guaranteeing that a mishit
would be long--the one place he couldn't miss, with a canal
sitting beyond the green. A gentle, steep swing would have been a
more defensive play, because a mishit would be short of the green
in the rough. Herron bladed his shot into the water, leading to a
killing quadruple-bogey 8.
THREE COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF CBS (TOP)
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID BERGMAN Rick Grayson, 47, is an instructor at the Connie Morris Learning Center in Springfield, Mo., and one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers.
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID BERGMAN 1 Set up with a weaker grip, and the ball off the left heel.
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID BERGMAN 2 Use a strong wrist cock to lift the club steeply.
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID BERGMAN 3 Recock wrists after impact so that swing path forms a V.
WHEN YOU'RE ON A HARD SURFACE near the green, like hardpan
littered with rocks and debris, it's still possible to hit an
effective pitch, and even a high, soft flop shot is not out of
the question. The temptation, though, is to swing hard with a
low, wide arc, and that's a surefire recipe for a mishit. You
must swing slower than normal and in the shape of a V (above)
rather than in the U-shape of most pitch shots. Here are five
steps to follow when hitting off an extra-hard surface. 1. Weaken
the grip. The grip should be 20% weaker (rotated to the left for
a righthander) than what you would use for a normal pitch while
still keeping the club face square. 2. Position the ball slightly
inside the left heel (picture 1). 3. Stand with two thirds of
your weight on your left side, leaning slightly toward the
target. 4. In the backswing use a lot of wrist cock to lift the
club swiftly (picture 2). In the downswing let the arms drop the
club softly and steeply down onto the ball, and after impact,
recock your wrists so that the club rises steeply during the
follow-through (picture 3). The result should be a V-shaped
swing. 5. Remain still throughout the swing. Any extra motion
will cause you to skull it or to hit it fat.
OUR TOP TEACHER SAYS...
"CBS's Lanny Wadkins was too kind to Chris DiMarco on Sunday.
DiMarco didn't 'push' his approach on 12. He shanked it."
"If Tim Herron weighs 210 pounds, as it says in the Tour
media guide, then I'm Brad Pitt's identical twin."
"Tiger Woods will return with a vengeance because, for the
first time in his pro career, he's had a long break to recharge.
I predict at least six wins this season, including a major."
"I have a plan to energize the ailing Champions and LPGA
tours: At some events, have the tours play together on the same
course, as the men and women do at tennis majors."
"Virtually every Tour course is set up way too easy. Beyond
building new tees, the Tour should insist its host courses narrow
the fairways, grow rough and make bunkers deeper and more penal."