Graeme McDowell hit quality knockdown shots during his win at Harbour Town. (Lecka/Getty Images)
By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, PGA TOUR Academy
Another great finish at the RBC Heritage this week as Graeme McDowell got it done at Harbour Town. Certainly, it was not a surprise to see the Irishman play so well in tough, windy conditions on Sunday as the sporty little knockdown shot he hit during the first playoff hole turned out to be the difference.
I love to watch the PGA TOUR when the wind is blowing because it really separates the guys who are controlling their ball flight. In windy conditions, there is a premium on controlling the impact condition because any small issue can be greatly exaggerated.
Often times, I will take many of my students and teach them how to hit a knockdown shot early in lesson plans. This allows students to shorten their swing frame and begin to control the club shaft, club head and club face at impact. At the TOUR Academies, we call these the “Big 3” and each is critical when trying to hit that 6-iron through the wind like Graeme McDowell did late on Sunday afternoon.
Club shaft: The significance of the club shaft when hitting a knockdown shot is to lean it forward at impact. If you are a player that leans the club shaft away from impact, then you are more than likely going to struggle in the wind. In order for the club shaft to lean forward you must learn to keep the trail wrist bent through impact -- learning how to do this in a smaller setting like a knockdown shot is highly recommended because it will teach the importance and value of this critical fundamental in the golf swing.
Club head: With the club shaft forward, the club head can now be moving down. This is another key piece of a knockdown shot because the club head needs to be moving down through impact. Again, if the club shaft is leaning away from the target, then the club head is more than likely moving up through impact. However, what’s key here is most of you don’t need to steepen your overall swing shape to hit down. If you get too steep with your swing shape then you run the risk of the launch angle being too high, so continue to make your same swing shape with high emphasis on forward lean in the club shaft with a club head moving down, creating a nice shallow divot.
Club face: With the club shaft forward, the club face will be delofted. This is critical because the club face has huge value to the overall launch angle of the ball. If it’s delofted then the ball will launch at a more penetrating angle – thus knocking it down. In addition, it’s important that the lead hand squares the club face up through impact. Be careful that when keeping the trail wrist bent through impact you don’t “hang on” to the club face. This means the lead hand knuckles are too much to the sky. This creates an open club face and usually higher shots to the right. Instead, feel the back of the left hand “turn down” – knuckles to the ground. This closing effect to the club face is needed not only for trajectory but overall direction as well.
Travis Fulton is the Director of Instruction at the TOUR Academies at TPC Sawgrass and the World Golf Village. For more information on the TOUR Academy, click here.
Photo courtesy of RBC Heritage
It's a 45-year-old tradition at the RBC Heritage on Hilton Head Island, S.C. Earlier this week, South Carolina's only PGA TOUR event began with a blast, as defending champ Carl Pettersson drove a ball into the Calibogue Sound in unison with cannon fire.
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Check out the top five shots of the week from the RBC Heritage, Greater Gwinnett Championship, and 82nd Abeirto OSDE del Centro featuring Justin Bolli, Angel Cabrera, Jim Fuyrk, Bernhard Langer, and Graeme McDowell.
By: Fred Albers, PGA TOUR.COM Correspondent
There are some tired golfers leaving Hilton Head Island tonight. Playing in the wind is not just physically tiring, it is mentally exhausting. With 30 mile per hour winds, players were in danger of suffering lacerations when tossing grass into the air to determine their direction. Golf became a guessing game, wondering how hard the wind was blowing, from what direction and how it would affect every shot. Players usually trust the tops of trees to indicate wind direction but swirling gusts made that a futile exercise. If a golfer could keep a shot’s trajectory below the treetops, he could shelter the ball from the wind but that was a difficult task. It was “Kapalua” windy and if Harbor Town’s greens had severe undulations, it might have been impossible to play golf on Sunday.
Gust: There is always an element of luck in any golf tournament and Webb Simpson got a badly timed gust of wind in the playoff. His putt from off the green, appeared to run just a couple feet by the cup when a gust of wind whipped the ball another five feet. Simpson missed that par putt and McDowell won the tournament. Players tried to time putts between gusts of wind but that's truly a guessing game.
Irish eyes: On a perplexing day to play golf, Graeme McDowell seemingly had the right answers. He is 10th on TOUR in hitting fairways this year and has a low penetrating ball flight, both great attributes in windy conditions. McDowell also has a short, compact putting stroke that is perfect when it blows. It was a frustratingly difficult day to play golf and yet the Ulsterman managed to keep smiling. He played 17 bogey-free holes on Sunday before missing a 13-footer on the 18th. McDowell led the tournament in scrambling this week. Attitude on the PGA TOUR often goes hand in hand with accomplishment.
Yardage: Yardage was all about commitment on Sunday. Players and caddies factored in the severity of the wind and the direction but it was the golfer’s responsibility to trust that number. It’s very difficult to say a shot is playing 200 yards but also trusting that number enough to hit an eight iron down wind. Players had to pick a number and trust the yardage enough to commit to that shot.
Scoring: Only two holes on the golf course played under par in the final round. The second and fifth holes, both par 5s, played to stroke averages of 4.63 and 4.89 respectively. Every other hole was over par with the 14th leading the way at nearly half stroke over par. There were 12 balls hit into the water at that 170-yard par 3. There was balanced scoring with three players, Jeff Maggert, Scott Brown and Casey Wittenberg, shooting 80 while only Luke Donald, Russell Henley and Graeme McDowell shot in the 60s. All three carded scores of 69.
Time: At 4:46 p.m., there were three important golf shots that took place, all in a 60 second span. Graeme McDowell made a long par putt at the 13th. One hole back, Charley Hoffman bogeyed the 12th while Webb Simpson made birdie. A birdie, a par and a bogey resulted in those three golfers creating a 3-way tie for the lead at 9 under.
Fashion: It was tough to keep everything in place during the final round. Hats were routinely blown off players’ heads and a chasing game ensued. Perhaps, Charley Hoffman was affected more than most. He wears his hair long in back and those golden strands kept blowing in the breeze and slapping against his neck. For future reference, on windy days, I suggest Hoffman consider gathering his long hair into a “bun” and follow the lead of the always-fashionable Marcel Siem who tucks his hair with a bobby pin.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.
Charley Hoffman's putter ran cold in the final round at windy Harbour Town. (Lecka/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- A day after taking just 21 putts, Charley Hoffman had 33 in the final round of the RBC Heritage.
The result? A 6-over 77 and a tie for sixth for Hoffman, who began the day with a two-stroke lead.
His third-round statistics are a bit misleading when you consider he hit just eight greens in regulation, but the point is no less important.
"I actually hit the ball all right today, I just didn't make the putts like I needed to make yesterday," said Hoffman, who also hit just 10 greens on a wild, windy day at Harbour Town.
Still, Hoffman was in the tournament, tied for the lead on the back nine -- until he hit his tee shot into the water on the par-3 14th hole.
He went on to make double bogey and would finish with bogeys on each of the last two holes, too.
"It was tough conditions and I didn't capitalize on the situations that I had," Hoffman said. "The shots I hit good didn't turn out like I thought they were going to turn out."
Graeme McDowell led the field in scrambling, converting 19 of 24 missed greens into par or better.
||Winner: Graeme McDowell
|Driving Distance||274.5 (51st)||Jason Day (300.0 yards)||T30
|Driving Accuracy||75.00% (T5)||Jerry Kelly (82.14%)||5th|
|Strokes Gained-Putting||1.473 (6th)
||Charley Hoffman (2.625)
|Greens in Regulation||66.67% (T7)||Webb Simpson (70.83%)
|Proximity to Hole||34'-11" (T32)
||Greg Owen (30'-2")
WEEKLY PERFORMANCE STATS ARCHIVE
Week 2: Sony Open in Hawaii
Week 4: Farmers Insurance Open
Week 5: Waste Management Phoenix Open
Week 7: Northern Trust Open
Week 8: The Honda Classic
Week 9: WGC Cadillac & Puerto Rico Open
Week 12: Shell Houston Open
Week 13: Valero Texas Open
Week 14: The Masters
Webb Simpson was sure that his playoff birdie attempt was going to fall, but it didn't. (Lecka/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Webb Simpson was to the right of the 18th green at famed Harbour Town's finishing hole, 34 feet from the hole, the RBC Heritage hanging in the balance.
"I never thought I made a putt more than that birdie putt," Simpson said. "It was in. With a foot to go, it was in the left side."
Only it wasn't.
Even Graeme McDowell thought the putt by Simpson was better than the resulting outcome: A 7-footer coming back to extend the playoff.
Simpson missed the next one, too, and McDowell was winner, having already tapped in for par. Afterward, McDowell told Simpson he hit a better putt than the result showed.
"Coming back, that was a hard putt, because by the grain and the wind it's supposed to break," Simpson said. "But the regulation putt didn't break. So I was kind of stuck with, 'What do I do?' I tried to play it left center. It broke."
And with it went Simpson's best opportunity to win since his U.S. Open victory at The Olympic Club last summer.
Still, it was a step in the right direction for Simpson, who has barely contended anywhere this season.
He arrived at Harbour Town low in confidence. He left feeling positive about where he's headed.
"I just stayed true to the process of what we've been working on," he said. "My wife and I had multiple conversations this week just about my confidence, how I can become more confident as a player."
Only nine months ago, he was on top of the golf world after having won his first career major championship. But managing the whirlwind since hasn't always been easy even if Simpson has tried to make it so.
"I understand how some guys it puts pressure on them," he said. "But I try never to do that to myself. One of my friends, (author) Eric Metaxas said when he wrote his big book Bonhoeffer he didn't feel like he was a better writer, but all of a sudden he's world famous.
"I kind of felt that way at the U.S. Open. I won a major, but it didn't change me that much as a player."
On a windswept day at Harbour Town, it was the closest Simpson looked to the player he was when he won last summer.
Despite three bogeys in the middle of his final-round 71, Simpson also made three birdies, including one on the difficult 12th, where he stuck his approach to 5 feet.
Only 20 players were at par or better amid sustained winds of 20-25 mph and gusts as high as 40. Simpson was one of them.
"My caddie and I called 18 holes today 18 acts, as if we were in a play, just because you really cannot think ahead out there," he said. "It's as hard as we'll ever play."
The wind affected putts, too.
A few times Simpson had to step away from his ball. Once it even moved as he stood over it on the green. A change in the rules, however, didn't lead to a penalty, unlike in New Orleans last year when he was penalized for the same thing.
On Simpson's final putt, it sailed past the right side, getting caught in the wind, he said.
"It was tough," Simpson said. "Putting is so hard because you've got to play, break, grain, wind."
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- On a day when more players shot in the 80s than in the 60s, a player who grew up playing in the wind in Northern Ireland stood alone Sunday at the RBC Heritage.
Graeme McDowell beat Webb Simpson on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff between former U.S. Open champions at Harbour Town.
After McDowell bogeyed the final hole of regulation to let Simpson back in the picture, he made par on the same hole to defeat Simpson, who ran his 6-foot putt past.
The win is the first of the season for McDowell, who moves from 50th to sixth in the FedExCup standings, his highest ranking since January 2011.
Through the first 17 holes, it looked like there wouldn't be a need for a playoff.
Despite Harbour Town playing nearly three strokes over par on a windswept afternoon along Calibogue Sound, McDowell was flawless, making three birides and no bogeys to reach 10 under and a one-shot lead with one hole to play.
But McDowell's approach to the difficult 18th was slightly long, leaving him 44 feet to the hole.
The 2010 U.S. Open winner ran his first putt 12 feet by and missed the par save coming back.
That kept Simpson's hopes alive.
Playing two groups behind McDowell in the day's final pairing and standing on the tee, Simpson split the fairway and hit his approach to 20 feet.
His birdie attempt came up just short and he tapped in to force a playoff.
Both men found the fairway in the playoff, but Simpson missed the green right on his approach, while McDowell left himself 12 feet from underneath the hole.
Using his putter, Simpson nearly holed his next shot before the ball tumbled 6 feet past.
"I never thought a putt was in more than that one," Simpson said. "With a foot to go it was in."
McDowell's birdie try came up just short of the hole, leaving Simpson a chance to extend the playoff.
Simpson missed the putt, however, running it by the right edge.
Graeme McDowell carded a 2-under 69 and then defeated Webb Simpson in a playoff in windy conditions to win the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town on Sunday. It is McDowell's second PGA TOUR win (2010 U.S. Open).
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