WHO: Hunter Mahan
WHAT: 43-foot putt from just short of the green to 11 inches
WHERE: 320-yard par-4 15th hole at Dove Mountain
WHEN: Championship match of the WGC-Accenture Match Play
Two years ago at the Ryder Cup, Mahan choked by flubbing a chip from an almost identical position as he had at the 15th hole in the final at the Match Play. In a singles duel against Graeme McDowell that would decide the Cup, Mahan was just off the green and in a little swale at the 17th hole. Mahan chose to chip the shot, but he hit it so poorly that his ball didn't even reach the green. McDowell won the match, Europe won the Cup and Mahan was devastated.
At 15 on Sunday, Mahan, who's been working hard to improve his short game, wisely used his putter, effectively taking the flub and skull opportunities out of play. McIlroy had driven his ball onto the green and was putting for eagle, so Mahan, clinging to a 2-up lead, needed to equal McIlroy's almost certain birdie. Mahan deftly rolled his ball to tap-in range, and he closed out McIlroy on the next hole.
THE DRILL: Most people hit little shots around the green with their hands and arms, but doing that easily causes flubs because you're prone to losing control of the club. Instead, keep the hands quiet, and hit short shots primarily with your body turn, allowing the body turn to bring the club down to and through impact. During impact, you should feel like you're rotating your chest toward the target.
To practice short chips, pick a spot a few inches ahead of the ball. Place a coin or a tee in that spot. When hitting, focus your eyes on the coin or tee. Doing that will help you do two things: 1) hit down with a strong body turn, rather than flailing your arms at the ball, and 2) contact the ball first, then the turf.
Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Jim Suttie teaches at The Club at TwinEagles in Naples, Fla.