I keep my technique around the greens as simple as possible. Maybe that’s why I finished second on the PGA Tour in 2018 in scrambling from the rough—though I’m not so sure being in greenside rough more than 100 times last year was a good thing. Still, it’s nice to know that missing a green doesn’t mean I’ve taken par—or even birdie—out of play. While you’re working on your game this winter, my advice is to spend a little more time on your pitch shots. It’s going to pay off when your golf season is in full swing. Every time your opponents think they’re going to win a hole because they’re on the green and you’re not, you’re going to pitch it stone dead and tap in for at least a halve. It will drive them nuts. Here’s how I play these shots. —with Ron Kaspriske
“Get your hands out of this shot and your consistency will improve.”
GET IN POSITION
▶ Always assess your lie first. There are times when you can’t play a stock pitch, and you have to manufacture a shot with your imagination and some touch. But when you can pitch it, pay attention to ball position and how you set up. Never play the ball too far forward, because you won’t get crisp contact. I like it center to slightly back of center in my stance and my clubface—usually my lob wedge—open slightly and leaning just a hair toward the target. Also, set your feet and hips open in relation to your target, and take a narrow stance. For consistently good contact, you want very little movement in your legs when you swing, so you have to pre-set your finish position with the lower body. The narrow stance reminds you to keep the lower body quiet for this finesse shot.
HOW MUCH HINGE?
▶ It really doesn’t matter. Don’t think about it, and just let wrist hinge happen naturally as you take the club back with your shoulders.
USE YOUR BODY
▶ The swing is all about rotating my shoulders back and my chest through. I don’t think about my hands. It’s a short shot, obviously, so the tendency here is to slow the club down through impact in fear of hitting it too far. But you have to trust that a smooth acceleration of the chest down and toward the target is going to let that wedge glide along the turf, bottoming out just ahead of the ball. When you’re practicing, pay attention to shaft lean. You want it to be fairly vertical when it strikes the ball. That way, you’re making full use of the wedge’s design and loft. If you keep your hands soft, weight forward and chest moving in the through-swing, your scrambling will rule the day.