Bump and Run Mike Bender

By David AllenJuly 31, 2009, 4:00 pm
We know it's difficult to find time to practice during the week. When a Saturday or Sunday tee time rolls around, you're hoping to find some spark or productive swing thought that will help you break 100, 90, 80 or whatever your scoring goal may be.
With the weekend warrior in mind we created Bump and Run, a weekly Q&A with some of the game's top instructors. Each Friday, a teaching professional will occupy this space and answer questions directed toward improving your game. This week it's Mike Bender (pictured), a former PGA Tour player who is ranked among the Top 10 Greatest Teachers in America by Golf Digest.
Mike Bender teaches Zach Johnson and Jonathan ByrdMIKE BENDER
Mike Bender Golf Academy at Timacuan Golf Club Lake Mary, FL
- Golf Digests 50 Greatest Teachers
- Golf Magazine Top 100 Teachers in America
- 4-Time North Florida PGA Section Teacher of the Year
- PGA Tour player (1987-89)
Zach Johnson, Jonathan Bryd, Lee Janzen, Seon Hwa Lee, Vicky Hurst
Web Site:
Contact: 407-321-0444
Do you want to know the secrets to Zach Johnson's wedge game, or how to groove your putting stroke before heading to the first tee? Bender, whose students include Johnson, Jonathan Byrd and Lee Janzen, has the answers.
To submit a question to Bender or one of our teachers, please e-mail bumpandrun@thegolfchannel.com and check back every Friday to see if your question got answered. Who knows, it just might be the impetus you need to shoot your best round ever come the weekend.
I understand that a few months prior to the 2007 Masters, you built Zach Johnson a wedge course at Timacuan?
Yes. It's really for everybody but I specifically wanted Zach to have a place to work on his wedges. With his length ' hes an average-length hitter [281.0 yards] ' he needs to be one of the best wedge players in the game. I played the PGA Tour in 1989 when Tom Kite was the leading money winner on Tour and I outdrove him because he was one of the shorter hitters out there. But he was one of the best wedge players of all time. He used to work on it by landing balls on towels. His dad would stand out there and verify that it landed on the towel.
To get better at your wedges, its all about having control over the distance the ball flies, not where it ends up. So rather than have towels out there, we built blocks (4 X 4 concrete plates) so we could see the ball bounce and hear it. Theyre set into upslopes so you can clearly see them, and theyre staggered all around so you have to turn yourself to shoot at different targets. There are eight plates in all, starting at 30 yards and going up to 100.
We have a course-record board. Lee Janzen has the PGA Tour record at 49 (49 attempts to hit all eight blocks). Zachs personal-best is 50. The overall record belongs to an Italian national team member [Nino Bertasio] at 38 shots. One day, Zach hit seven plates in his first 18 attempts. He had 30 chances to break Lees record and he couldnt do it. He was going crazy. He wound up hitting his very next block (No. 50).
Do you have a good wedge tip for the average golfer?
Play the ball back in your stance, much farther than you think. Amateurs dont play the ball back far enough, so the ball climbs up the face and they don't hit it enough distance. The best wedge players in the game hit their wedges low with lots of spin on them. There are two ways to stop the ball on the green ' with trajectory or spin. If you hit it lower with lots of spin on it youre going to control the distance better. Its relative to hitting a flop shot versus a 9-iron chip and run. Youre going to have much more control with your 9-iron.
Any advice for the weekend warrior? Something that may help them drop a shot or two during their Saturday or Sunday round?
Always hit the longest putts on the practice green before you go play. Usually people drop a few balls and attempt the sure putts, then they get on the first hole and have a 50-footer and three-putt. Youll be more prepared if you practice the longer putts, and youll get a better feel for the speed of the greens.
Zach Johnson at 2007 Masters
Zach Johnson's wedge play helped him win a green jacket.
Do you have a favorite Zach Johnson story?
At the 2007 Masters, he wasnt hitting the ball particularly well on the range. I went up to him and said, Zach, I want you to make full swings with your driver and try and fly the ball about 200 yards.' There is this big net at the back of the range and all of the guys were hitting it more than halfway up. Zach is hitting these balls that are not even getting near the net, and you can hear the gallery behind us going, Look at that guy, he can't even hit the net. What is he doing? We thought that was pretty funny. Then he winds up winning the Masters.
His problem early in the week was that his tempo was very inconsistent. By making a full swing and trying to flight the ball 200 yards, it really slowed him down. Every day we did that it carried over to the course and he hit it better and better.
How would you suggest the average golfer work on tempo?
One of the things you should do warming up is always start with a pitching wedge. Whatever your full distance is ' lets say, you hit your pitching wedge120 yards ' hit several balls 105, 110 yards at the most. People who start on the driving range, they grab a 7-iron, 5-iron, driver, whatever, and swing full out right from the get-go. Start out with a pitching wedge, not a sand wedge, and hit more pitching wedges than any other club. Its one of the harder clubs to hit; you have to make great contact with it. This helps to get your rhythm going because you really dont expect to hit a pitching wedge that far anyway. Youre not expecting to see the ball go out there a long ways, which takes away the inclination to try and hit it as far as you can.
Mike Bender Related Videos
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    Getty Images

    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.