Jordan Spieth won with a par on the fifth playoff hole. (Cohen/Getty Images)
By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM
There’s a new sheriff in town -- TOUR rookie Jordan Spieth, only 19, has been knocking on the door more often than not in the 2013 season. He finally burst through with a memorable and exciting victory in the John Deere Classic.
Not anyone on the TOUR is particularly surprised though. Spieth possesses a complete game and a maturity and poise well beyond his tender age. He has been in contention almost every week through the summer. He mentioned to me at The Greenbrier Classic that once he had locked up his playing privileges for 2014, he was basically “free-swinging,” as he knew the only way he could get into the FedExCup Playoffs was by winning a tournament.
Spieth’s free-swinging and gutsy approach led to a number of sensational shots coming down the stretch and in the five hole playoff at TPC Deere Run. Particularly memorable was the hole-out from the greenside bunker on the 18th for a closing birdie. He also hit some long and accurate drives and made some clutch putts. For me however, the shot that was the most impressive (due to the pressure of the situation and the demands of the shot) was the low, running punch shot from under the trees to the back of the final green on the last hole of the playoff.
From in the rough on the right of the fairway, Spieth threaded the needle, under and between the trees to his right and a water hazard to the left of the green. He got this incredible approach shot to the back edge of the green, some 20 feet from the flag, effectively putting himself in position to two-putt to win his maiden TOUR title.
It is a shot that should be a part of every golfer’s arsenal and Spieth’s approach to the super-accurate knockdown shot (and the method he employed) illustrate a few lessons that can help one and all achieve more success and consistency:
Move the ball back, but not too far: Position the ball around the middle of the stance for a well-controlled knock-down shot. Be careful not to get the ball too far behind the center of the stance because the geometry of the swing arc through impact dictates that a clubface that is square on its arc will actually be pointing to the right of the target line for right-handers. So in other words, accuracy on a punch shot is very much influenced by the clubface alignment and the ball position in relation to the arc.
Grip down the club and keep a firm grip pressure and make an abbreviated swing: The closer you get your hands to the clubface the more accurate you are likely to be. So to improve your chances of flighting the ball down and through a tight area, grip well down the shaft. To aid in accuracy, retention of a firm grip pressure in the lead hand is also crucial, as it will help to keep the clubface from turning over excessively through impact. Then as you make your swing, strive to shorten the arc on both sides of the ball, but especially on the follow-through. As Gary Player advised me, to keep the ball low, you must make a low finish.
Select an extra club. When torn on club selection, it is always more advisable to select a bigger club. Spieth did the very same thing. He was about to go with an 8-iron, but then at the last minute he reevaluated, went back to the bag, and selected a 7-iron. The reason that he gave was that he did not feel comfortable with the higher lofted club as he was afraid the ball may just up too quickly and hit the overhanging tree limbs. Further, the straighter-faced club will also allow you to make a smoother swing which will reduce the back-and-side spin, which is a sure-fire way to flight the ball more accurately.
So to thread an accurate knock-down shot though a tight opening, do it like the PGA TOUR’s newest star. Make a savvy decision and only attempt the shot if it is on, then select a straighter-faced club and make a smooth, abbreviated and balanced swing.
Mark Immelman, the brother of PGA TOUR professional Trevor Immelman, is a well-respected golf instructor and head coach of the Columbus State University (Ga.) golf team. For more information about Mark and his instruction, visit his web site, markimmelman.com or follow him on Twitter @mark_immelman or “Like” Mark Immelman Golf Instruction on Facebook. He also has a golf instruction e-book called “Consistently Straight Shots – The Simple Solution” available on iTunes/iBooks.