WHO: Dustin Johnson
WHAT: A 161-yard sand wedge to 8 feet, 8 inches for the winning birdie
WHERE: 490-yard par-4 17th hole at TPC Southwind
WHEN: Final round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic
I find it rather depressing that anybody could hit a 161-yard sand wedge. And if I find it depressing, the average player should be totally flabbergasted. Johnson's monstrous shots are astounding. Think about it: a 161-yard sand wedge is a driver for many women and it's a 5-iron or a hybrid for many men. In 1990, Robert Gamez holed a 176-yard 7-iron for an eagle at the final hole to win at Bay Hill. Now guys are hitting sand wedges almost as far. Could it be that someday Tour players will need only woods and wedges? The debate over whether today's courses are becoming obsolete is not a debate — it's a fact, as Johnson proved last Sunday in Memphis.
THE DRILL: Here's what fuels Johnson's power: On the way down, the letter L formed by the angle of his left arm and the shaft turns into a V, which generates massive clubhead lag and stored power that he retains until the last possible moment before impact. Coming down, most golfers turn the L into an I, which means they throw away their power. So the longer you can sustain the L, even change it into a V, and keep your wrists cocked, the more power you'll generate.
Here's a drill to help keep your wrists cocked. Using no balls and just a wedge or a short iron, make a half backswing and stop. Be sure you've made a full wrist cock. Next, take your left hand off the grip and grab the shaft just below the end of the grip. Your right wrist should be cocked at least 90 degrees. Now pull down your hands past your groin as if you're trying to continue the swing. The right wrist and right elbow should feel a lot of pressure, almost like they want to explode. Sometimes, I have students do this drill before every shot in a casual round. The drill trains them to release the hands, wrists and arms much later than they usually release them, and delaying the release creates lag, which in turn produces power and distance.
Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher John Elliott teaches at St. Andrews Golf and Country Club in West Chicago, Ill.