Jason Dufner has his chest facing the target after impact. (Redington/Getty Images)
By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, TOUR Academies
Two years ago in Atlanta at the PGA Championship, Jason Dufner let a four-shot lead slip away over the final four holes, eventually falling to Keegan Bradley in a playoff. On Sunday, Dufner’s lead with four holes to play at the PGA was a more precarious two shots, yet there was very little doubt as to whether or not he’d hang on this time around.
Dufner, who tied a major-championship scoring record with his 63 on Friday at Oak Hill Country Club, was splitting fairways and firing bullets at the flag like his idol, Ben Hogan. Three times on Sunday, he spun wedges back to about a foot for tap-in birdies, and until he three-putted the 17th green, the emotionless 36-year-old had gone 26 consecutive holes without a bogey or worse. He had just 11 putts over his first nine holes, an indication of just how well he was hitting his approach shots.
In the end, his 10-under-par 270 total obliterated the previous major championship scoring mark at Oak Hill of 6 under, set by Jack Nicklaus at the 1980 PGA Championship.
What makes Dufner such a good wedge player is that he’s able to hit down on the ball with a fairly neutral swing path. His divots are so deep at times you could sprain an ankle stepping in one of them, but he keeps his left arm close to his chest and his torso rotating to the left, which zeroes out his path and allows him to hit the ball straight with so much spin.
What’s interesting is that for every degree you hit down on the ball with a wedge, it affects your swing direction just under a degree to the right. I would guess that Dufner hits down on the ball a negative five or six degrees with a wedge. Without moving his swing direction to the left, he’d hit big pushes to the right or he’d have to draw his ball back to the target by closing the clubface. Dufner is probably one of the best players on the PGA TOUR at rotating his torso to the left and keeping his left arm close to his chest, resulting in a swing direction to the left and ... a neutral path.
Another thing that’s very unique to Dufner’s wedge swing is his takeaway. His left wrist remains cupped (bent back toward his forearm), which allows him to move the handle back with the clubhead (very Hogan-esque) and keep the head out in front of his hands. This is completely opposite of what he does on his pre-swing waggle, where he practically bows the left wrist and sucks the clubhead immediately behind his hands. This is the most common thing I see with amateurs on the backswing: their hands go out (toward the target line) and the clubhead travels in, which all but guarantees you’ll swing down into the ball from over the top.
Dufner’s takeaway -- not his waggle -- is something every amateur golfer would do well to emulate. When you cup the left wrist, it pushes your left arm against your chest, which not only makes it easier to turn your shoulders on the backswing, but also promotes a more inside downswing path. Perhaps more importantly, it can help you rotate your torso to the left through impact.
To put more bite on your wedge shots, remember to:
1. Keep the clubhead in line with the handle or slightly outside your hands on the takeaway.
2. Have a forward leaning shaft at impact, which slightly delofts the clubface so you’re not producing too much initial trajectory.
3. Hit down on the ball with speed, which creates the spin.
4. Rotate your torso to the left through impact, so the path of the clubhead is more neutral as opposed to out to the right.
Travis Fulton is the Director of Instruction for the TOUR Academies at TPC Sawgrass and the World Golf Village. 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.