Zachs Knockout Punch


The 12-foot birdie putt Zach Johnson made on the first playoff hole Sunday was set up by a magnificent punch 6-iron into the 18th green. Ironically, Johnson hit the identical club and shot on the same hole 15 minutes earlier, only to miss a putt which would’ve ended the Valero Texas Open in regulation.
The knockdown shot is a staple of Johnson’s game because he’s not a very handsy player. His finish is much more around and he releases the club with his body, not his hands, which reduces spin. It’s a very controlled shot, which is why many Tour players go to it under pressure or when they’re in-between clubs. It’s also a nice shot to have in your arsenal when you’re playing in windy conditions, as you often are in Texas.
Amateurs struggle to hit this shot because they take too big a backswing and decelerate coming into the ball. The body stops and the arm and hand action increases, which creates more clubface rotation. When you add face rotation, you tend to generate more underspin (which makes the ball fly higher and balloon in the wind) or sidespin. However, when you take face rotation away, you bring the spin rate down, which allows the ball to bore through the wind. The less spin on the ball, the easier it is to control the distance as well.
To execute the knockdown shot, try the following: 1) Play the ball farther back than normal in your stance, and put more weight on your forward leg. This will help deloft the face and shorten the length of your backswing. You’ll also have an easier time clearing your hips and rotating your body through into the finish. 2) Make a three-quarter length backswing; and 3) swing aggressively into the finish, rotating your chest around until it faces the target. If you’re in-between clubs, make sure to take the longer of the two clubs (i.e., 6-iron vs. 7-iron). Follow these three simple keys and you’ll be able to knock it down with regularity.