WHO: Paula Creamer
WHAT: Hybrid shot to five feet to set up a birdie
WHEN: Third round of the Women's U.S. Open
WHERE: 445-yard par 4 18th hole at Oakmont Country Club
The momentum from the terrific hybrid shot and birdie at the end of the third round on Sunday morning put Creamer in the perfect frame of mind for the final round. I've spoken with Creamer's coach, David Whelan, and he's told me how much work they do with hybrids and how amazingly straight she hits them. She can just routinely dial it in at the flag. One thing David told me was that sometimes Paula gets narrow coming down with the hybrids, causing her to dip her head, but that's rare. With hybrids, Creamer takes a little divot and traps the ball, squeezing it at impact, and I like that very much.
I've been slow to convert to hybrids. Indeed, I just put two hybrids (19 and 21 degrees) in my bag for the first time. But I'm impressed and see how helpful the clubs are. They're fun to hit because the clubmakers have vastly improved the club's technology. They used to make hybrids too light and with too much weight out on the toe, so you'd always hook the ball. Now, however, they've learned that the hybrids shouldn't be so light (heavier shafts are now used) and weight in the clubhead is more evenly distributed. With a hybrid, you definitely let the club do the work for you. With a long iron, you try harder, but the hybrid makes you feel comfortable, and that is very helpful.
I position the ball a little further back than with a fairway wood, so the ball is about five-iron position in my stance. Because the shafts are shorter than fairway woods, you stand a bit closer to the ball, and that also makes you feel more comfortable.
One thing to avoid: never tee up the ball with a hybrid. The heads are so shallow that you can't hit them properly off a tee.
Before hitting a hybrid, I take a couple of half-ish practice swings and try to barely graze the turf, perhaps nipping a tuft of grass. The half-size (back and through) practice swing gives you a sense of the bottom of the swing and the club smoothly going through the ball.
Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Mitchell Spearman works at Doral Arrowwood, in Rye Brook, N.Y. You can find Spearman's iPhone app here.