WHO: Bryce Molder
WHAT: 140-yard 9-iron from a hazard onto the green
WHEN: Fourth playoff hole at the Frys.com Open
WHERE: 425-yard par-4 18th hole at CordeValle Golf Club
I watched every shot of the final round and the playoff, and what I took away as a teacher was just how unbelievably well Tour players (Baird and Molder in particular) strike the ball. On the drivable par-4 17th hole, Baird and Molder combines to fly six driver tee shots at the green in both regulation and the playoff, and on each shot their ball landed on or near the green. Not only did the balls have to fly more than 280 yards, but each shot had to be straight because the green is especially narrow and has a big bunker in front. Watching the ballstriking performance demonstrated why Tour players comprise the one percent of the one percent of golfers on earth who earn a living playing golf.
Molder won with a shot that looked like a miracle. On the fourth playoff hole, he drove left into the hazard. His ball was on a bank to the right of a lake. The ball was in very deep grass and well above his feet. The television commentators suggested that Molder had no shot to the green. The average golfer would've had no shot and pitched out, but Molder had a different idea.
Molder felt that his lie was decent, considering the situation, and that he could comfortably hit a 9-iron at the green. To Molder, this wasn't an attempt to hit a miracle shot. He's so strong and adept that going for the green was a reasonable decision. His ball popped out of the rough, landed in front of the green and rolled onto the front of the putting surface. He then two-putted from 80 feet for a par to stay alive in the playoff, which he won two holes later.
The Drill: The most important thing about a recovery shot from a hazard or similarly difficult position is to know when to take your poison. Fans and the media all thought Molder had to lay up from the hazard, but he hit the ball onto the green. Don't try to copy Molder's spectacular shot. Know your limitations and choose a shot that offers a strong chance of being successful. From a hazard, most players will have to pitch out or lay up.
When pitching out from a hazard, don't even look at the final target. Focus on the section of fairway or rough to which you'll hit your ball. With the ball above your feet, like Molder's ball was, aim a little to the right because the sidehill lie will cause the ball to fly left of your aiming point. Also, take a high lofted club to gouge the ball out of the thick grass. Finally, open the clubface a little at address and hang on tight to the grip through impact to prevent the clubface from totally closing at contact.