It was fortunate for Hunter Mahan that he made a bunch of key putts down the stretch at Firestone, because several times it looked to like he either didn't have a pre-set strategy to play the final holes, or if he did, he didn't stick with it. Also, he seemed to be losing his swing until the final hole.
Once Mahan birdied 13 and took a two shot lead it figured that he would just try to hit fairways and greens the rest of the way and let the other players try to make birdies to catch him. If he could just play even par into the clubhouse, it would take a two-under back-nine from Ryan Palmer, Sean O'Hair or Bo Van Pelt. On Sunday at Firestone that's not an easy task. After a "hit the middle of the green" par on 14 and a great up and down at 15, Mahan stood 227 yards out from the green on 16. Still with a two-shot lead you would have thought that the main idea was to just keep making pars and if a birdie dropped then so be it. That called for Hunter to lay-up short of the pond, pitch on and keep letting the other guys try to catch him. The lure of reaching the 16th green in two sucked him into trying a very difficult shot when it was unnecessary.
The lesson here is to have a set strategy based on your abilities, your tendencies and your personality. Stick with your plan. Only abandon it when it becomes absolutely necessary and even then give great pause before you go off of your original plan. Sticking with your strategy goes hand-in-hand with sticking with your swing.
A key to Hunter Mahan's swing is the rotation and clearing of his hips on the downswing. It helps to keep his swing on plane and fends off the clubface closing at impact and hitting a shot left. Tee shot swings at 15 and 17 Hunter didn't look as aggressive with his hips and those shots went left. To his credit Hunter made two hard swings on 18 with his hips rotating aggressively both times. The swing lesson here is to understand that if the body doesn't rotate though the downswing the arms and hands take over and that many times leads to pulling or hooking shots. There needs to be proper timing between the arm swing and the body rotation. Rotate too quickly, leave your arms behind and shots tend to go right. To remedy this make short half-swings feeling your hands stay in front of your chest as you rotate back and through.
You can optimize this drill by sticking a towel under your arm pits and have feeling of connection between your upper arms and the sides of your chest. If your timing is good on your full-swing you should have your hands in front of your chest at impact and through the beginning of the follow-through.
John Fiander, Master PGA Professional Sleepy Hollow Golf Course Brecksville, Ohio
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