WHO: Kyle Stanley
WHAT: A 50-yard pitch from under a cactus to the green
WHERE: 332-yard par-4 17th hole at TPC Scottsdale
WHEN: Final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open
To come back from the emotional roller coaster of two weeks ago, when Stanley blew a huge final-round lead, is spectacular. But last week, he had a big advantage: he was playing from behind, which put him in an aggressive — rather than a defensive — mode of thinking. He showed that at 17.
Stanley was aggressive off the tee by hitting driver rather than laying up on the short par 4 with water down the left side. After his tee shot landed under a cactus bush, Stanley could have chipped out and then pitched to the green. Instead, he boldly played a pitch from an awkward stance and with a hooded clubface. The aggressive play could've backfired with a whiff, a skull or another bad outcome. But Stanley was playing to win. He executed the shot perfectly, nipping the ball so it flew over a bunker, landed a bit short of the green and then rolled onto the green 22 feet from the hole. Stanley two-putted for a par.
Stanley is a player to watch. Not many guys could lose so badly one week and come back the very next week with a victory. The turnaround shows a quality of character than is very unusual on the PGA Tour.
THE DRILL: My favorite way to practice and learn recovery shots is to play one-club golf. Last week, I played an entire round with only a 6-iron. Another option is to hit driver off the tees and then play with one club (I prefer a 6-iron) for all other shots, including putts.
Playing with one club teaches you to be creative. You learn how to hit different shots and how to manipulate a single club to create a wide variety of outcomes. You're forced to be imaginative and to develop a sense of adaptability with your clubs.
Practicing like that prepares you for spots like Stanley found at 17. You may not have practiced shots from the exact situation you're in, but you'll be able to create a shot.
Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Mitchell Spearman teaches at Isleworth Country Club in Orlando and at Doral Arrowwood in Rye Brook, N.Y.