By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM
The FedExCup Playoffs began when The Wyndham Championship concluded at the venerable Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C. Wyndham always hosts a fun event with a vacation-type atmosphere, and the fans come out in their droves to watch the TOUR’s best take on the classic venue and challenging greens.
The atmosphere among the competitors was dramatically different, however. With the FedExCup Playoffs one week away, a number of players in the field were not only playing to earn a spot in the Playoffs, they were playing for the PGA TOUR lives. It certainly made for an interesting dynamic and certainly some riveting viewing.
Sunday afternoon brought a finish that was as exciting as any in 2013. Two rookies -- Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth -- battled it out over the last few holes and a two-hole, sudden-death playoff. Both young protagonists hit shots worthy of the highlight reel, but in the end it was Reed who delivered the best shot. From under the trees, off a damp and mulchy lie with the ball above his feet, Reed hit a 7-iron approach shot to 7 feet to set up the winning birdie three. As a matter of fact, the shot flew over my head as I was on the right side of the 10th fairway on the call for Sirius/XM PGA TOUR Radio.
It highlighted to me the importance of learning control off uneven lies. First things first, if the ball is above your feet the shot will more than likely be pulled. Further, that pull-effect becomes compounded as the club becomes more lofted. Indeed the more lofted the club the more the shot is likely to go left (for right-handers). To counter this, and make crisp contact and get the shot closer to the target, there are a few things to do.
Align your body to the right and aim the clubface more to the right: As far as possible, align yourself to the right of the target to adjust for the left tendency (left-handers would obviously aim more left). It should go without saying that you should not aim outside of the margins of the green if there are penalizing hazards or conditions that could ruin your score. If that is the case, proceed with the shot and just allow the ball to turn to the safer side of the green. Also, be sure to open the clubface just a little at address before you grip the club – much in the same way as you would for a lofted greenside shot. Don’t worry, the ball will not necessarily go any higher due to the nature of the side-slope and the action of the clubface’s loft through the shot. What it will reduce, though, is the tendency for the ball to go too far left.
Grip tighter in your lead hand and “hold off” the release: By holding a little tighter with the last three fingers of your lead hand (left for righties) you will reduce the tendency for the clubface to “turn over” and close too much through impact. This will obviously help to keep the ball more on line. Further, make every effort to “hold off” the release of the club through and after impact. By this I mean that you should resist the natural inclination for the forearms to rotate counter-clockwise (right-handers) into the through-swing. Strive to have the back of the lead hand point toward the target a little longer through impact and keep the handle of the club leading the clubhead. Keeping the lead arm and elbow a little straighter through impact and into the through-swing will also reduce clubface turnover. You can facilitate this by making an abbreviated follow-through (about chest-high) where you feel like the clubshaft points toward the target and the clubface points toward the sky.
Throughout the swing it is always advisable to play the ball from the middle of the stance and from a stable base. So ensure a strong and engaged leg action to aid in having your swing bottom out in the right place to guarantee good contact for proper distance control.
Try these elements and I am sure that you will also hit shots with the ball above your feet more cleanly and on the target – just like Reed in the playoff.
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.