WHO: Johnson Wagner
WHAT: 34-yard shot from a bunker to 11 feet from the hole
WHERE: 351-yard par 4 10th hole at Waialae Country Club
WHEN: Final round of the Sony Open
After the round, Johnson said that his up-and-downs from greenside bunkers at the 9th and 10th holes were the key shots of his round. At nine, he made a great up-and-down after blasting out from 36 feet for a tap-in birdie. At 10, he holed his 11-footer for birdie. So Johnson made two straight birdies from bunkers, which is darn good.
Johnson's bunker stats haven't been good (he was 134th in 2011), but he's actually a pretty good bunker player. Johnson just wasn't making the five- to 10-footers that you need to make to have good sand numbers. The whole key for Johnson in bunkers is setting up properly and staying steady. His motion is fine. Sometimes, though, he responds to sand shots too much with his body and moves around. When you move, the club doesn't land in the right spot. So I always work with Johnson on staying steady so he'll hit that spot right behind the ball.
The Drill: When practicing in bunkers, I draw two five-foot lines. The lines should be parallel and three inches apart. I place one ball at the end of the line closer to the target. I start at the end of the lines that is furthest from the ball, and I take about 10 swings moving down the line. In each swing, the goal is to hit the back line as the club enters the sand and then take out the forward line in the follow-through. After covering those five feet of lines, you reach the end where you're finally ready to hit the ball. By taking swings without a ball, you will free up your mind to focus on the most important thing in a bunker: where your club hits the sand. After each swing, inspect the lines to see where the club hit the sand. The average golfer rarely hits the sand in the right place.
Bobby Heins, the 2008 Metropolitan PGA section Teacher of the Year, has been the head professional at Old Oaks Country Club in Purchase, N.Y. for 30 years. He has taught Johnson Wagner for over a decade.