In a year filled with redemption stories, Tony Finau’s playoff win this week at The Northern Trust might be the best comeback story yet. Neary 2,000 days since his first and only win in 2016, he broke through on Monday’s finish at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey.
When Tony Finau first achieved status on the PGA Tour, he was a very high speed, high spin player. Being a bomber has its advantages, but to go low you must be able to control your scoring shots. Tony showed some serious skill in the final round, mastering a couple close ones en route to a 65 on the scorecard.
With extremely wet conditions spin can play a major factor for PGA Tour players. Finau’s final round displayed deft touch with his scoring approaches on holes 3, 6, and 12. Tony hit each shot very close and with little to no spin. Even though the average golfer doesn’t consider backspin an issue, we can all benefit from Finau’s form with a wedge to improve our overall impact.
Tony’s trick is to take more club and swing smooth through impact. When he does, his control factor goes up and spin goes down. Here’s how he does it. The next time you get to your favorite spot on the practice range try this experiment.
Pick a yardage where you normally hit a full pitching wedge. For the article, let’s say that’s 100 yards. Once you’re warmed up, take an 8-iron, and hit the ball to that same target yardage. Don’t shorten your swing, rather slow down and feel really connected. Quiet the hands and concentrate on your turning motion.
Watch Tony when he hits his scoring shots. He takes the club away with an effortless shoulder turn and then attacks the shot in the downswing by using his body to generate rotation. His grip is very light as he accelerates through the shot.
Go back to your 8-iron shot. Start the backswing with your shoulders, not your hands and wrists. Then coil your ribcage; keep the arms quiet. Transition back to the ball by using your turn, don’t pull the grip down. This fluid motion will allow you to expertly control your distance. Continue practicing the 60% 8-iron shot.
Become completely competent learning to control the length and spin on each shot. Try to hit a pitching wedge at 60% or a 9-iron. Vary your practice but keep the same goal.
Occasionally, mix in a full shot with this drill. Feel your new move through the ball and see the results. You will achieve better compression and the control will be greater. We all tend to snatch the club away from the start and jerk it back down in transition.
Follow Finau and start to create a more consistent motion by relying on your body turning rather than the hands and wrists pulling. Don’t just use this movement for wedge shots, incorporate a better turn into every shot.
Give your full swing some Finau flow and you’ll be reaching new heights in your game just like him.
Keith Stewart is a 5-time award-winning PGA Professional with 25 years of experience in the golf industry. His network of players, coaches and insiders provide him with a unique perspective on the game. He's a writer on PGA.com and host of the ProShow on ESPN 920 AM Friday afternoons at 3:00pm EDT. Check out his PGA Coaching articles archived here or his conversations on air with this link to his website The ProShow.