By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, TOUR Academies
First, it appeared as if Jordan Spieth was going to get away with highway robbery. After rallying from three shots down on the back nine and then sinking a 25-foot par putt to extend his playoff with Patrick Reed, the 20-year-old hit his approach shot on the second playoff hole at the Wyndham Championship to 10 feet. Meanwhile, Reed was in serious trouble, having hit his tee shot nearly out of bounds onto some dirt and pine straw 156 yards away from the hole. Things were looking really good for Spieth, until Reed answered with a cold-blooded dagger of his own, hitting a bullet of a 7-iron to 7 feet. Spieth then missed his birdie attempt and Reed pounced, sinking his to capture his first PGA TOUR title.
That’s the up and down nature of golf, and a testament to what can happen if you never give up on a hole. For Reed to have any chance at winning he knew he had to pull off a career shot, and he did. Not only did he have to contend with some overhanging limbs and two trees in front of him, but he drew a terrible lie, with the ball several inches above his feet resting on some twigs, and his feet in the grass. To advance the ball anywhere close to the green where he’d have a chance to make par, he’d have to pick the ball just perfectly and keep it low enough so as to avoid the trees. He’d also have to generate enough clubhead and ball speed to carry the ball 150 yards, not to mention hit the ball dead straight. Reed likes to draw the ball.
He did each one better.
So how did Reed pull off this miraculous escape? First, he made sure to take enough club so that he could choke down, make a three-quarter swing with a low finish, and still get the ball to the hole. Secondly, he had the wrist and forearm strength necessary to rotate the clubface down and hold it down into the finish. Despite all of the speed Reed generated on this particular shot, he was still able to keep the clubhead below his waist on the follow-through. This low finish allowed him to compress the ball with the shaft leaning forward (due to a bent right wrist) and the face delofted, creating a low, stinging ball flight.
To finish low, you must still aggressively turn your chest through; otherwise, you’ll have a hard time maintaining the bend in your right wrist and the forward lean to the shaft in the post-impact position. The face should be turned down (about 45 degrees to the target line) and the right wrist bent just after impact and into the follow-through, but if you don’t have the support of your chest it becomes very easy to flip the clubhead and shaft upward, thus not compressing the ball. By rotating his torso Reed was also able to create additional clubhead speed and power while keeping the ball so low.
When you commit to a low finish it forces you to sustain the downward pressure of the clubhead into the ball and the ground. There can’t be any flipping of the hands. You’re taking the attitude that there’s no up in the swing, even though it eventually does happen after the clubhead reaches its low point. The mentality is that you’re holding the clubhead down through impact.
This is a great image for anyone who has a tendency to hang back and scoop at the ball, or launches the ball too high. In our schools, we teach our students to hit little punch shots with a wedge, keeping their finishes very low. This teaches them to sustain the downward pressure on the ball through impact, which in turn trains them how to rotate their torso through impact. Try it sometime and you may be hitting some miraculous recovery shots, too.
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.