WHO: Sean O’Hair
WHAT: A 120-yard pitch-out into the fairway
WHERE: 472-yard par-4 18th hole at Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club
WHEN: Final round of the Canadian Open
In May, O’Hair left swing instructor Sean Foley and returned to working with Steve Dahlby, who had coached O’Hair for many years starting when O’Hair was 11 years old. Since switching coaches, the biggest change in O’Hair’s swing is that he now has a much more vertical action. The motion O’Hair had developed with Foley was flatter, like a merry-go-round, while his new swing is higher and up-an-down, like a ferris wheel.
Last week, O’Hair’s steeper swing was a huge help, because a steep swing is exactly what you need to play out of thick rough. Jack Nicklaus was so good out of the rough because he came steeply down and into the ball, thus contacting the ball — and not the grass — first.
In the playoff, O’Hair smartly pitched out of the rough rather than trying to muscle a long iron onto the green. He then easily pitched onto the green and two-putted for a winning bogey while Blanks, who had also driven into the rough, made a double.
THE DRILL: When hitting out of thick rough, make four key adjustments in your setup:
1. Stand a little closer to the ball.
2. Open up the clubface a little. The grass will close the clubface, so you need to start with the face a bit open.
3. Move the ball slightly back in your stance.
4. Keep your weight focused on the left (lead) side.
Finally, be sure to attack the ball with an unusually vertical downswing to provide power, and be sure you contact the ball first.
To practice this setup and swing, hit shots from a sidehill lie with the ball below your feet. You do not need to be in rough. The sidehill lie with the ball below your feet will create a more vertical swing and condition you to the motion needed to hit out of the rough.
Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Jim Suttie teaches at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont, Ill.