Vijay Singh is often ribbed about his endless practice sessions,
but the workouts prepare him to execute specialty shots under
intense pressure. In a back-nine duel with Nick Price on Sunday
at the Byron Nelson Championship, Singh stiffed a high-risk wedge
shot on the 12th hole to set up a crucial birdie. Trailing Price
by one stroke on the par-4 12th, Singh ripped a 325-yard drive,
leaving 101 yards to a pin tucked on a ridge in the back-left
corner of the green. His shot required a precise trajectory and
backspin to land dead and not roll forward or spin back too far
on the slick, baked-out putting surface. Most Tour players have
the Popeye-like forearms and tremendous swing speed (up to 90 mph
with a wedge) to hit such shots on the range, but few guys can
execute such a delicate shot with a tournament on the line. Singh
used a three-quarter swing and trapped the ball perfectly. It
landed with a thud on a slope a couple of feet past the flagstick
and trickled back toward the hole for a tap-in birdie (above)
that put him back atop the leader board. Singh has never won a
U.S. Open, but his mastery of the no-roll approach shot makes him
my pick to prevail on Olympia Field's wicked greens.
FOUR COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF CBS
COLOR PHOTO: ANDREW GOMBERT (5) T.J. Tomasi teaches at Lyman Orchards Golf Club in Middlefield, Conn., and is one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers.
COLOR PHOTOMONTAGE: ANDREW GOMBERT (5); JIM GUND (BACKGROUND) ADDRESS
COLOR PHOTOMONTAGE: ANDREW GOMBERT (5); JIM GUND (BACKGROUND) TAKEAWAY
COLOR PHOTOMONTAGE: ANDREW GOMBERT (5); JIM GUND (BACKGROUND) RIGHT
COLOR PHOTOMONTAGE: ANDREW GOMBERT (5); JIM GUND (BACKGROUND) WRONG
To create the backspin necessary to stop an approach shot quickly
on a hard, slick green, you must: 1. take a three-quarter-length
swing; 2. use a fairly steep attack angle and accelerate through
impact; 3. let body rotation pull your lagging hands and arms
through the downswing; 4. maintain a firm, unhinged left wrist to
trap the ball. For righthanders, hitting one-handed pitch shots
with your left arm is a great way to learn this technique. Take a
normal address and cock your wrist during the takeaway. On the
downswing, be sure that the clubhead lags behind your hand as it
accelerates through the hitting area (RIGHT). Resist the common
mistake of flipping your wrist at impact (WRONG).
OUR TOP TEACHER SAYS...
"Nick Price, not Nick Faldo, is David Leadbetter's Mona Lisa.
When Price started working with Leadbetter 20 years ago, Price's
swing was mini-tour quality, and now he's a Hall of Famer."
"Sponsors' exemptions often go to players who are unlikely to
contend, and that's fine. The PGA Tour is as much about
entertainment as sport, so any sponsor who puts up several
million dollars deserves exemptions that will maximize buzz."
"The Tour will someday have women members, but Annika
Sorenstam won't be one of them. Michelle Wie will be the real
trailblazer, holding her own against the men and inspiring future
generations of girls to do the same."
"The golf business is in shambles, with courses going bankrupt,
manufacturers struggling to survive and people losing jobs
across the board."