Learning Curves


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I feel like Im getting closer to regaining my form of a few years ago, when I ranked as high as seventh in the Official World Golf Rankings. But to get back there, Ive got to do a better job of competing in the majors and the other big events. I hung around even par all week at the Masters but never did get much of anything going (Donald finished tied for 38th). I struggled on the greens more than anything else. With the changes theyve made over the last few years to Augusta National, you really need to have all parts of your game working, and I didnt have that. I missed a few short putts, but I also wasnt hitting my approach shots close enough to give myself many birdie opportunities.
I did a better job of that the following week at the Verizon Heritage, shooting 65-66 on the weekend to vault into a tie for second place. Still, I finished 10 shots back of winner Brian Gay. Second place never felt so far away.
I took several weeks off following the Verizon Heritage, which gave my swing coach, Pat Goss, and I the opportunity to work on a few mechanical things. The first order of business was to learn how to better move the ball from right to left. Augusta Nationals curved fairways favor a draw, and Im not comfortable hitting that shot, especially when the wind is blowing hard from left to right and I need to hold the ball against the breeze. There are plenty of holes out there that demand this sort of shot, and I need to shape it better.
For me, the key to hitting a draw is getting the club started back on the right path, which is in and up. I preset this path by closing my stance so that my shoulders point slightly right of the target line. My forearms and hands are in line with my shoulders. From here, I start the club back with my hands, moving the handle in toward my body while hinging the clubhead up so the toe points toward the sky. This is important: The sooner I get my wrists hinged, the easier time I have keeping the club on-plane and getting the face square at the top of my swing. My left wrist is cupped slightly and my shaft plane more vertical at the top, not flat and laid off. When Im swinging well, the shaft is high above my head and theres some space between my left shoulder and chin. From this position, its easy to swing the club back down on-plane and release it properly.
I'll hit a lot of shots in practice with my right foot back. This is a good drill if you want to learn how to hit a draw because it promotes the proper inside path on the takeaway, and it also helps you to make a better turn behind the ball. Another thing it does is prevent you from backing up on the downswing, so you can release the club from the inside.
The added benefit of the draw is that it takes a lot of pressure off my surgically-repaired left wrist. If I get the club laid off and the face shut at the top of my swing, the club gets stuck behind me (on the downswing) and Ive got to flip real hard with my hands to move the ball to my target. That puts a lot of strain on my wrist. Another plus is my misses tend to leak to the right, and if I can draw the ball more consistently I should be able to eliminate these right shots entirely. Thats music to my ears.
Editors Note: Two-time PGA Tour winner and European Ryder Cup team member Luke Donald will be writing a monthly column for GolfChannel.com throughout the remainder of the 2009 season. The focus of the column will be What Im Working On, and will give you an inside look into life on the PGA Tour from one of the games elite players.