WHO: Tiger Woods
WHAT: A greenside flop shot to one inch for a par
WHEN: First round of the Chevron World Challenge
WHERE: 186-yard, par-3 12th hole at Sherwood Country Club
Woods is perhaps the best short-game player the game has ever seen. Forever, he was hitting unbelievable recovery shots that helped him save rounds when he wasn’t playing well, and to go really low when he was firing on all cylinders. But for the past year, his short game was often poor, and that made his overall game look very human. One reason for his substandard short game could have been that creativity in golf is directly related to having an open and focused mind, which Woods obviously didn’t have.
In the first round, Woods’s flop-shot at 12 came from a downhill lie in very thick rough. The ball trickled down to the hole and lipped out. The shot was vintage Tiger Woods. Does it mean that Woods is back? No. But it could be a precursor of things to come.
To hit a flop shot, the face of the wedge must be laid very open at address. The clubface has to be much more open than most people realize. I like to have the face at least 30 degrees open, but it could even be more. That will look dramatically open to most people.
How do you get the clubface open? A good player very loosely holds the club in his hands, and while doing that he rotates the grip to make the clubface open. Once the face is open, he firms up his grip on the club. That procedure gives him an open clubface with a good grip.
The mistake most golfers make, however, is to employ an incorrect gripping procedure to produce an open clubface. They first firmly grip the club, and then they rotate the grip to open the clubface. But doing that produces a bad grip with an open clubface. Inevitably, the player will then either swing with the poor grip or turn the clubface back to square before swinging. In both cases, it’s impossible to hit a flop shot.
Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Mark Wood teaches at Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club in Bedminster Township, N.J.