By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, PGA TOUR Academy
Well, Zach Johnson finally got that hometown win at the John Deere Classic after defeating Troy Matteson in a two-hole playoff. This is Johnson’s second win in 2012, which moves him up to second place in the FedExCup standings, just behind Tiger Woods.
After a bunch of birdies from all over the TPC Deere Run golf course over four rounds, Johnson was forced to make one more birdie from the fairway bunker — just like Steve Stricker did in 2011. After hitting his fairway bunker shot in the water during the first playoff hole, Johnson got a second chance to redeem himself during the second playoff hole with a very similar shot that he pulled off to near-perfection.
Fairway bunkers are usually not a golfer’s best friend. Although professionals make these shots look easy most of the time, they too can struggle with the precision needed to hit these shots successfully. The key to a good fairway bunker shot like Johnson’s late on Sunday is to make ball contact first. Although this is the case with most every shot in golf, it holds especially true in a fairway bunker.
Here are three tips the next time you face this difficult fairway bunker shot:
1. Grip down and stand a bit closer to the ball at address. This setup adjustment will help control the swing. However, be sure to take enough club to offset its effect on distance.
2. Place your sternum over the ball with weight slightly left at address. It is very helpful to approach this shot like a short game shot. Make sure the sternum is not too far behind the ball but rather more over it, with the weight slightly preset to the forward foot.
3. Conservative swing. I tell my students that when thinking of a fairway bunker shot, less is more. Think three-quarters in this situation, as this will allow you to keep the body more stable with less moving parts. This will help promote that the sternum returns back over the ball with the weight on the lead foot at impact.
Travis Fulton is the Director of Instruction at the TOUR Academies at TPC Sawgrass and the World Golf Village. For more information on the TOUR Academy, click here.
RELATED VIDEO: The top 10 fairway bunker shots on the PGA TOUR