WHO: Tiger Woods
WHAT: 175-yard 9-iron to 30 feet
WHERE: 471-yard, par-4 12th hole at Congressional
WHEN: Final round of the AT&T National
Woods made the shot from behind the tree look pretty easy, but the closed-face full punch shot was definitely very risky and very hard.
He’d hooked his drive and needed to hook his approach to find the green. Adding to the difficulty, a huge tree a few feet in front and to Woods’s left was potentially going to prevent him from taking a full backswing, and it definitely was going to impede the follow through.
Before hitting, Woods asked spectators in front of him to back off because he was worried about the club snapping against the tree in the follow through and possibly shattering into pieces.
Woods wisely used a steep, V-shaped swing going back and through to avoid calamity. He didn’t touch the tree going back, and in the follow through he kept his club moving forward and up, rather than turning left as it normally would. The shaft bent as it swept up along the tree trunk, but the club was not damaged.
Don’t be too ambitious when hitting shots with an object in front of you that’ll impede your backswing or follow through. Unless you have Tour-level skill, it’s best to simply get the ball back into play. Otherwise you’re likely to flub the shot, damage your club or injure yourself.
Here’s how to practice hitting with a tree in the path of your follow through. Put a golf bag or a shaft in front of you and a bit to the left, so that if you bang the object coming through you won’t hurt yourself. Take one or two extra clubs. If you need to hit a 150-yard shot and your 7-iron flies 150, take a five iron.
Position the ball a little back in your stance, choke down on the grip and shift your weight to the left so you have more than half your weight on your left side. Making those adjustments will enable you to make a V-shaped swing rather than a normal U-shaped motion. With the vertical descent and follow through of the V-shape, you can avoid hitting the object in front of you.
Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Jim Suttie teaches at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Lemont, Ill.