Big Play: How to stripe it under pressure like Hunter Mahan

Hunter Mahan was cool off the tee while winning the Houston Open.
Dave Einsel / AP

WHO: Hunter Mahan
WHAT: A 291-yard drive into the fairway
WHEN: Final round of the Shell Houston Open
WHERE: 488-yard par 4 18th hole at Redstone Golf Club
On the 18th tee, Hunter Mahan was in a precarious situation. He had a slim one-shot lead; water runs along the entire left side of the hole; and a huge fairway bunker sits on the right side of the landing area. Also, Mahan couldn’t lay up with an iron or fairway metal because 18 is so long. Facing all of these potential problems, Mahan hit one of the most clutch drives of the year, striping a driver with a little draw into the fairway. From there, he had a relatively easy seven-iron approach to the green, and two putts later he had his second victory of the season.
THE DRILL: To handle pressure tee-shot situations like Mahan’s, it’s good to have a go-to shot shape that you know you can hit. Depending on whether that’s a draw or a fade, you’ll need to make some adjustments for a high-pressure shot. One adjustment applies to both a draw and a fade: tee up on the side of the tee where the trouble sits. If there’s water down the left, for example, tee up on the left so you can more easily aim to the right.
DRAW: Stand a little farther from the ball to produce a rounder swing that’s more apt to cause a draw. Also, relax your grip pressure so the club face can easily release and close through impact.
FADE: Stand a little closer to the ball. The closer you stand, the rounder your swing gets, and a round swing promotes a draw. Also, add a little extra grip pressure with the top three fingers (pinky to index finger) of your upper hand (the left for a right-hander). The firm grip will keep the heel of the clubhead leading through impact so the face doesn’t close and cause a hook.
Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Jason Carbone is the director of instruction at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J.