The World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship has crowned its new champion, Justin Rose. Rose started the day three shots back from the third-round leader Bubba Watson, who was -17 to start the day on Sunday. Bubba Watson seemed as if he could just overpower the TPC Blue Monster. Bubba's length off of the tee, spin control, and creativity got him into position he wanted to be Sunday. However, Justin Rose had his eye on the prize as well. Rose plays a very different type of game from Bubba Watson. Rose plays a very disciplined, regimented, and precise game that kept him on track during today's pressure-filled round. In the end, it was that steadiness that prevailed this time.
In a tournament with the top 50 players in the world, breezy conditions and a difficult golf course; Justin Rose proved himself a serious contender. Rose achieved an impressive win with focus and a solid game plan set forth by his pre-shot routine. This routine seemed to set the foundation to ground him during pressure-packed situations throughout the day. Justin appeared to calm himself by focusing on a pre-shot routine that helped him focus on the correct process without allowing doubt to enter into his mind.
Watching Rose's pre-shot routine I couldn't help but notice his attention to alignment. I always tell my students, "you wouldn't shoot a gun without aiming it and making sure your aim is correct." Justin Rose will stand behind his ball and hold the shaft out in front of him toward his target and pick a spot in front of his ball. The spot can be an old divot or a dark spot in the turf, really anything visible from behind the ball at address. Too many times I see amateur golfers walk up to their ball without standing behind it to look at the target before taking a swing. Many times the player will make a great swing and the ball sails off-line into a bunker, a water hazard, etc. The player will get upset about the bad shot and try to make an adjustment in their swing when the only problem was improper alignment. Furthermore, if alignment is off, the player may inadvertently change the swing to adjust, either pulling the ball back to the target or pushing the ball to the target. This correction often results in a player who doubts their swing mechanics all day long.
The most common swing fault I see is the over-the-top move leading to a pull slice. The player misses the fairway or green to the right and loses valuable distance. The majority of players stand at address with their feet aimed right of the target and their shoulders open to the target. Justin Rose makes sure he doesn't fall into the trap of improper alignment so he can clear he mind and make a great swing with confidence. Another thing to learn form Justin is how he will align his body parallel to the target, not right at it. It is important to understand that in this side posture game, we have to align slightly left of the target to be properly aligned. I like to tell my students to imagine train tracks with your ball on one side and you on the other. Standing at address, the body is aligned to the left of the target just like train tracks we are aiming correctly at the target, the train tracks look like they meet in the distance because they are going to the same place. Once you have determined your alignment make sure your feet, hips, and shoulders are aligned correctly parallel to the left of the spot you have determined on your line. I see a lot of amateurs only align their feet and think they are on target when they only took care of one-third of the alignment. Proper alignment involves feet, hips and shoulders.
Spot aiming is such a simple part of being a fundamentally sound golfer yet it is rarely used throughout an entire round by most amateurs. I see golfers start the round with a solid pre-shot routine based on alignment, yet the player will start to rush when he/she hits a bad shot and start compounding their errors. Justin Rose's pre-shot routine is definitely one to emulate to ensure proper fundamentals so you will be in a position before you even swing the club to give you the best chance to make a great swing every time -- and enjoy positive results. Birdies for one, victories for another.
Rose was very diligent about his pre-shot routine all day long, he had the same steps behind the ball, same mannerisms, held the shaft up for alignment every shot, and it helped him stay calm enough to make the right decisions and let good things happen. When you are practicing on the range, start developing a solid pre-shot routine based on fundamentals such as alignment. Take the pre-shot routine to the course and play a precise round of golf so pressure affects the other players and not you.
Blake A. Smith, PGA is the Head Teaching Professional and Master Club Fitter at Paradise Valley Country Club in Paradise Valley, Ariz.