By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, TOUR Academies
When he absolutely had to hit a good drive on the 72nd hole in Sunday’s final round of The McGladrey Classic, Chris Kirk delivered -- well, sort of -- hitting one of his patented draws into some manageable rough left of the fairway. That proved to be the difference, because while he was able to stay out of trouble his playing competitor, Briny Baird, hit his tee shot into a fairway bunker, drawing a horrible lie in the sand with the ball below his feet. Baird’s next shot went into the water, snapping the tie and handing Kirk his second career victory on the PGA TOUR.
Kirk has one of the more unusual setups in golf in that he stands very erect, with little bend in his knees and not much tilt from his hips. But what’s not unusual is that, like many TOUR players, he has a go-to shot that he can rely on in times of pressure, like the 72nd hole Sunday. Kirk likes to shape the ball from right to left with almost all of his clubs, and he does it as well as anybody on TOUR. If I were to write a prescription on how to hit a draw for my students, Kirk would be the model. Here are three components you can take away from his swing that will have you drawing the ball more consistently.
TAKEAWAY: CLUBFACE LOOKS AT THE GROUND
On the takeaway, Kirk keeps the clubface looking down at the ground, in a slightly shut position (i.e., toe pointing to 10 o’clock). There’s very little face rotation on his backswing; as a result, he doesn’t have to rotate it very far coming through impact. If the toe were pointing up halfway back, in an open position, it would require much more face rotation through impact to hit a draw. The other advantage to taking the clubface back this way is that it encourages you to hit the inside of the ball and, thus, swing more from the inside coming down. If you took the face back slightly shut and hit the outside of the ball, you’d pull it dead left.
TOP OF BACKSWING: LEFT ARM COVERS RIGHT SHOULDER
On the backswing, Kirk swings his left arm across his chest and very much around his body, so that when viewed from behind, his left arm is covering his right shoulder at the top of the backswing. There’s not a lot of up and down movement to his left arm; his left bicep stays very tight against his chest. This is what we refer to as a very deep shoulder turn—the deeper you can turn that left shoulder, the more likely your swing direction is going to be to the right, or from the inside. In order to hit a draw, it is encouraged the swing direction is to the right, so that the clubface is closed relative to the path the clubhead is traveling on. The face will still be pointing slightly right of the target line at impact, but because it’s closed relative to your path the ball will start to the right and gently curve back to the left. Golfers who swing their left arm too upright on the backswing have to drop their arms and loop the clubhead to the inside on the downswing in order to hit a draw, which is very difficult to do.
DOWNSWING: PATH MOVES TO THE RIGHT
The last component to hitting a draw as Kirk does is to make sure that your swing direction is to the right, or from the inside, coming down. Let’s say you’re standing in the middle of a clockface and your target is at 12 o’clock, in order to hit a draw you want to direct your swing out toward 1 o’clock—or about 3 to 5 yards to the right of your target line. Again, this will create a condition in which the face is closed relative to the path of the club, causing the ball to curve from right to left. I recommend drawing the ball from a square setup, or alignment, but if you have a hard time curving the ball then you may want to take your stance line and rotate it more to the right to promote more right-to-left spin.
I find that if you follow traditional instruction and aim the face at the target—with your body pointed in the direction that you want the ball to start—that you’re very likely to miss left since the face is looking down your target line at impact. The ball starts straight down the target line or a little left and then curves farther left. You’re much better off aligning square and moving your swing direction more to the right so that at impact, the face is looking a little right of your target—albeit closed to the path. Remember: The clubface is approximately 80 percent responsible for the ball’s starting direction, so in order to hit a draw it has to be slightly open, or looking right, at impact.
Travis Fulton is Director of Instruction for all TOURAcademy locations nationwide. For more game-improvement tips from the TOURAcademy instructors, on-the-spot club recommendations and 3D previews of each hole you play, download the TOURCaddie PRO app at www.pgatourcaddie.com.
By Dr. Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM
One word comes to mind when you watched Chris Kirk play this past Sunday at The McGladrey Classic: Relaxed.
Kirk’s body language gives you the impression that he is feeling zero pressure. His mannerisms are like that of someone playing with his buddies at home for a $2 Nassau. His shoulders are relaxed and his steps are not hurried. His body looks tension-free. Kirk’s body language was one main factor that helped him to stay calm and capture his second TOUR win.
Psychologist Darryl Bem developed self-perception theory to describe how our actions influence our emotions. Put simply, if we act relaxed we will feel relaxed, conversely, if we act nervous, we will feel anxious. Our brain gets the message from our body how to feel.
Here are a few suggestions to help your mental game through the appropriate body language:
1. To stay confident, strut your stuff. When you miss a putt or hit a bad shot, don’t allow your shoulders to droop. Keep your head high and your confidence will do the same.
2. To stay relaxed, keep your shoulders free of tension. One of the first body parts to feel tension is the shoulders. At the start of your routine, roll your shoulders to get them relaxed and you will make a smoother and more controlled swing.
3. To have more fun, keep smiling. We know even a fake smile will brighten your day on the course.
Body language is an essential weapon against a bad attitude. Have powerful body language and you will add more power to your mental game!
Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a regular guest every Tuesday on “Talk of the Tour” heard on the Sirius/XM PGA TOUR radio. He is a tenured professor of sports psychology and has been the mental game coach for many PGA TOUR players. Dr. Gregg is the author of the best selling golf psychology book, MentalRules for Golf. Inquire about coaching as well as get your autographed copy at www.drgreggsteinberg.com
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Davis Love III's brother, Mark, has been The McGladrey Classic's executive director since the tournament began in 2010. He's overseen the event's growth into a FedExCup event. He's also aided the development of the 2013 champion, Chris Kirk.
Kirk hit a slump in his second season as a professional, missing nine of 13 cuts on the Web.com Tour in 2009. He earned just $13,606 and had to return to q-school to regain his status. That's when Mark Love was enlisted to help Kirk, the 2007 Ben Hogan Award winner as the top player in college and amateur golf. They began working together in late 2009.
"Chris is not a real technical kind of guy," Mark Love said. "(His agents) thought he would benefit from a less technical approach. That's the way I do things. We did some drills, did some things that were real simple. We just helped him stick with what he was good at, which was drawing the golf ball. I think his slump had come because once he got into professional golf he thought he had to work it both ways and hit some shots that weren't as comfortable for him. That just got him a little off.
"We went back to his natural golf swing and ball flight, and then we just tried to manage that so that it didn't get too out of control. He has a tendency to aim a little right and hook it a little bit. We just did things to keep that reigned in."
Kirk found success that following season. He won twice on the Web.com Tour to earn his first PGA TOUR card. He won his first TOUR title (Sanderson Farms Championship) in 2011, and has finished in the top 50 in the FedExCup in each of his first three seasons.
Kirk and Mark Love met through the tight-knit St. Simons Island, Ga., golf community. Kirk is represented by Crown Sports Management, which is based on the island and also represents Davis Love III. Mark's father, Davis Love Jr., was a famed instructor. Mark also learned from teachers such as Bob Toski, Jim Flick, Peter Kostis, Paul Runyan and Jack Lumpkin while helping his father with golf camps.
Mark was an instructor before caddying for his brother on TOUR. Now Mark instructs part-time, using his knowledge to help local up-and-coming players. Kirk lived on St. Simons Island until moving a few weeks ago.
"We just make sure (Kirk's) fundamentals are good, he's aimed good and his posture is good. And then work on path, making sure he's turning through the ball well, keeping his hands low and moving to the left, and that there's not a lot of excess flip in his golf swing," Mark Love said. "That's generally the thing that gets him. We just make sure his hands and arms are matched up and feels free to go ahead and let it go."
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Just when it looked like Briny Baird's career drought would end, his chances splashed down in the water left of the 18th fairway.
Tied for the lead with Chris Kirk on the final hole of The McGladrey Classic, Baird topped his 4-iron from a fairway bunker and into the hazard.
"I didn't have obviously a really good lie, but it was a doable shot," he said. "My foot just slipped. I didn't do a good job."
Baird made bogey on the hole and went on to lose to Kirk by one. The silver lining? The 25-foot putt he made on 18 gave him $480,000 and secured his card for the rest of the season.
The 41-year-old was on a major medical extension from having surgery on both shoulders in 2012 and the bogey was worth a difference of $220,000.
"There's always a silver lining," Baird said. "Whether I made that putt or missed that putt, I still would have said it was a good week."
Just not good enough for his first win in a year's worth of starts -- Baird was playing in his 365th tournament on the PGA TOUR. Six times he has finished second.
"It's disappointing," Baird said. "I fought really, really hard. I really did. I didn't play particularly well today. I hung in there really good. I made some putts when I needed to make some putts. Disappointing. It really is."
Chris Kirk won for the second time in his career on Sunday, hanging on for a one-shot victory with a final-round 66 at The McGladrey Classic.
The victory moves him to fourth in the FedExCup standings for the 2013-14 season and earns Kirk a spot in the Masters. Congratulate him on his win in the comments section below.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Chris Kirk won for the second time in his career on Sunday, but not before surviving a wild back nine at The McGladrey Classic.
Tied for the lead with Briny Baird as the two played the 18th hole at Sea Island Golf Club, Baird chunked a 4-iron out of a fairway bunker and into the water.
Kirk went on to make par and shoot 66 for a one-shot win over Baird and Tim Clark, who had the day's best round with a 62.
The victory is the first since 2011 for Kirk, who still has a home in the area despite recently moving to Atlanta.
He earned 500 FedExCup points with the win and moves to fourth in the standings early in the 2013-14 campaign. He also earns his first trip to the Masters.
After back-to-back birdies on Nos. 13 and 14, Baird appeared to be on his way to a thre-shot lead until three-putting for par on thr 15th hole.
Baird appeared to be well on his way to a three-shot lead and his first career win earlier in the day until he three-putted for par on the 15th hole.
Kirk caught Baird with a 15-foot birdie on the 17th.
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
Every single golfer who has ever teed it up has experienced frustration at some point. It happened to Chris Kirk in the final round on the par-5 15th hole. He was coming off his first bogey in 19 holes at the 14th and sniped his second shot into a hazard left of the green. Kirk took his drop and then tomahawked the head of his wedge into the soft ground, leaving it there for his caddie to retrieve. That’s not the best of form but it might have released a little tension. Kirk seemed calmer when he reached the green and promptly made his 20-foot par putt while a rattled Briny Baird missed his four-footer. What could have been, maybe should have been, a two-shot swing resulted in no shots lost for Kirk.
Compassion: It is so hard to win on the PGA TOUR, for Baird to lose with his only bogey of the day, on his final hole, is terribly disheartening. After driving into a fairway bunker, from a bad lie and awkward stance, Baird topped his approach into the hazard. Every week there are dozens of shots that determine a winner. A missed putt on Thursday counts just as much as a miss on Sunday. However, we always remember shots down the stretch of tournaments and Baird’s mistake on the 18th hole will stick in everyone’s mind. Perhaps just as key was the 15th hole. Baird had a three-putt par, missing a four-footer for birdie that would have been a two shot lead.
Opportunity: Tim Clark led the tournament with 20 birdies but it was an opportunity lost at the 15th hole that might have cost him his second PGA TOUR title. Clark hit the par 5 in two shots and then three-putted for par from 70 feet. The 15th was problematic for Clark the entire week. He averaged just 259 yards per drive during the tournament and parred the 15th hole in every round.
Hip work: Chris Kirk looked locked in with five holes to play and then he got a case of the "lefts." Kirk hooked his drive into a hazard at the 14th and then hooked an approach into the hazard on the 15th. Kirk stopped working his hips and turning through the ball. Golf is a game of opposites and when a player stops turning his hips through the shot, the ball turns further to the left. Credit to Kirk for making the mid-round correction.
Setup: Baird has a couple unique aspects with his swing. He sets up with his weight noticeably shifted to his left side and he hovers his driver just above the ground before starting the swing. The weight on his left foot keeps him from swaying off the ball while hovering the driver promotes a smooth takeaway.
Pure class: Clark has battled injuries throughout his career and has just a single PGA TOUR win. It would be understandable if the South African was frustrated followed his second place finish. Instead, when asked if he thought his 13 under finish would be enough to win, Clark said he doubted it would hold then added he understood what Baird had gone though with injury recovery and that if Briny won the tournament, it would not bother him in the least.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.