By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, TOUR Academies
There were two headliners at this past week’s BMW Championship. The first was Jim Furyk, who during the second round became just the sixth player in PGA TOUR history to shoot a 59 -- and the first with a bogey on his card. Furyk sank a ridiculous 16-of-17 putts inside of 15 feet to help him post golf’s magic number. The second was Zach Johnson, who seemingly came out of nowhere during the final round to steal the penultimate event in the FedExCup Playoff series. Johnson fired a 6-under-par 65 to overtake Furyk and climb all the way to No. 4 in the FedExCup point standings heading into this week’s TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
What’s unique about both Furyk and Johnson is that while they have completely different swing shapes (Furyk’s has been famously described as “an octopus falling out of a tree,” whereas Johnson’s is very flat and around his body), they both take the clubface back in a slightly closed position and then hold the rotation of the face off through impact. In my estimation, this is one of things that leads to both of them being very accurate drivers of the ball. Because the face is closed going back (i.e., facing the ground, in a 10 o’clock position) and stable going through, they don’t have to rely so much on the timing of their hands and arms through impact. The closed face position on the backswing is also going to encourage sufficient clubhead lag and a swing path, or direction, that’s more from the inside on the downswing. It simply promotes better body movements throughout the swing, whereas if the face is open on the backswing, there’s a tendency for the body to work more out of sequence and the golfer to hang back in an attempt to square the face with their hands and arms.
In shooting 59, Furyk hit all 14 of his fairways and 17 of 18 greens in regulation. Johnson ranked 6th in driving accuracy for the week and bogeyed just one of his final 36 holes. Both are among the leaders in driving accuracy on the PGA TOUR, with Furyk currently ranking second (71.2 percent fairways hit) and Johnson eighth (69.9 percent). In 2012, Furyk ranked fourth (70.7 percent) and Johnson 14th (68.5 percent).
If there’s no consistent pattern to your misses off of the tee, and you feel like your swing is too timing-oriented — meaning, there’s a lot of hand and arm action on the backswing and at impact — then you ought to consider copying both Furyk’s and Johnson’s closed-face approach on the backswing. How do you change this? Number one, you could take Zach’s approach and grip the club really strong, with your hands turned far to the right on the handle. This way, it’s very difficult to rotate the hands any more to the right on the backswing, which prevents the clubface from twisting open. Secondly, if you prefer your grip to be more neutral, like Furyk, you can maintain a closed face by keeping the back of your left hand pointing slightly toward the ground during the first part of the backswing.
What both players do extremely well through impact is that they keep their right wrists bent, which, in turn, keeps the shaft leaning forward and in line with the left forearm. From here, they maintain these relationships by turning their chests aggressively through the hitting area. You don’t see their bodies stall out, and their hands and arms swinging (i.e., releasing) past their chests. Instead, you see their chests aggressively rotating to the left, leading their arms and the club through impact resulting in a great timing and very accurate golf shots.
Travis Fulton is the 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.