Congratulations to Jonathan Byrd on opening the 2011 PGA Tour season with a great playoff win. This is my third year in a row writing the first "A Lesson Learned" of the year, and I always feel fortunate to not only take the opening shot, but to almost always get a great event to analyze. This year, in fact, may have been the best.
With so many amazing shots and rounds, it was hard to pick any one item that really stood out. Graeme McDowell's final round 62 tied a course record and came close to getting him another win. I have a feeling he'll be a part of future "Lessons Learned" down the line. Robert Garrigus played great golf, I hated to see him lose on a short missed putt in the playoff. And the unfortunate rules violation by Camilo Villegas is another lesson we can all learn from.
But there was one shot that seemed to set the golf world abuzz. On Thursday, the first round of the year, Bubba Watson hit driver, driver, putt for an eagle on the famous 18th hole at Kapalua Resort. What a way to start the year!
I've hit that same shot and I can tell you, that's a tough shot, made even tougher by the downhill lie he had, but he sure made it look easy. I guess as the commercial says, "These Guys Are Good."
You're going to find yourself in situations like that throughout this year. You will feel the need or have a great opportunity to hit a career shot from the fairway - to reach a green that's a long ways away and only your driver will do it. The good news is, it can be done. If the situation demands it, and you just need to go for it, let me give you two quick points to remember.
1.) Tempo is key. You want your arms to stay in synch with your body turn. If your arms get too fast, you're going to swing too steep. With a driver in your hand, you're going to have a very hard time getting the ball up with a steep angle of attack. I use a verbal drill to help me slow it down. Try "Fred-dy Coup-ples" to keep it smooth. (As opposed to a "Tom Kite" which will result in a fast swing.)
2.) Keep the ball forward in your stance, similar to how you would hit a driver off the tee. I keep mine just inside my front instep. Many players want to move it back a little from the fairway, however, I feel this again often creates steeper angles of the swing.
So slow it down, keep an even smooth tempo and remember to keep your ball poitioned in a spot that will encourage a shallow swing path. If you do these things, you may find yourself with an opportunity to hit a career shot this year as well.
Here's to a great golf season for everyone.