Tag:short game
Posted on: February 25, 2012 8:09 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 11:09 pm

Mahan victory could be a 'short' story

By Steve Elling

MARANA, Ariz. -- Rest assured, America, Hunter Mahan has heard you.

Plenty of folks recall how much trouble the popular Yank had in the final match of the 2010 Ryder Cup, where his short-game shortcomings all but decided the clinching point for the European team.

He remembers it, too, with great clarity. It's something he's been trying to rectify for quite some time.

"Four years ago, I made my first Ryder Cup team, and I couldn't chip it from me to you," Mahan said Saturday.

After as many years of trying to remedy the situation, Mahan's finally got his wedge play and short game where it needs to be, which surely is a major reason why he's advanced to the semifinals Sunday in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Mahan went to see a short-game coach a few months back, but it only made the problem worse, he said. His chipping and pitching were so bad, he and caddie John Wood had to find alternatives -- like putting as often as possible from off the green.

"Sometimes you can putt instead of chipping, which I did a lot," he said, laughing. "Sometimes I would be, 'All right, what can we do here? We have to get creative,' just because I didn't feel good about my chipping."

That mercifully began to change in the second half of 2011. Once a player with a terrific short game, it had seriously eroded, though not for a lack of trying to patch it up.

"I kind of remember how it happened," he said. "I saw a guy, because I was curious, 'Boy, I was a good chipper and all of a sudden I kind of lost it.' I remember I went and saw somebody and it didn't work out."

That's just the start of the story.

"At the end of the day, it made it worse," he said. "I saw people, but people can give you all the advice in the world and you have to trust it, believe it and you have to do it over and over and over again until it clicks. If you put the work in, it will. It's not rocket science."

Dustin Johnson has heard some of the same complaints about his short game.

"It's not like people say, it's not like D.J. is going to be a bad [chipper] or he just can't get good at it, I don't believe that. Anybody that's good at chipping or driving or iron play, there's usually a reason for it, it's not just luck. You just have to find those reasons why and work on it and try to do better."

Mahan said he finally turned the corner last year, though it was very gradual.

"I would be inconsistent one day, the next day would be good, and the next day not so good," he said. "Then I put it together back to back. I put some work in in January and I felt like the first tournament at Torrey Pines it was great. I kind of hit the corner, probably mid-January, is when I started feeling it when I practiced, I could do it like every day.

Mahan has been a fixture in the world top 25 for a couple of years, despite his admittedly shaky short-game issues over the majority of that period. How the heck did he pull that off?
"Well, it's not just a contest of skills," he said. "It's a contest of getting the ball in the hole. We talk about, 'D.J. can't chip or hit his wedges,' well, I don't know, he's pretty good. He could have a couple of majors in his pocket.  It's about getting the ball in the hole."

Now he's doing all of it better, not to mention faster.

Posted on: March 9, 2011 2:27 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2011 5:12 pm

Short-game tweaks fuel longer Tiger drought, too

DORAL, Fla. -- Of all the unsolicited feedback, be it scathing criticism or outright encouragement, that Tiger Woods has received since attempting his latest swing changes, perhaps the most interesting portion has been missed.

It's in his game's very minutaie, so to speak.

Looking back and applying building-contractor terms, the swing changes made under former teachers Butch Harmon and Hank Haney seemed like kitchen renovations. However, the newly minted Sean Foley process is more akin to a complete, 14-club teardown, right to the cinder-block bones of the short game.

Even when his game was otherwise raggedy during the transitional times working with Haney and Harmon, Woods' short game usually kept him in the ballgame. That hasn't yet been the case this season.

At the Cadillac Championship on Wednesday, Woods attempted to explain why his short game has deteriorated over the past few months -- because, for the first time, that phase of the bag has been completely overhauled, too.

Without getting needlessly technical, Woods said his "release" point under Foley also has changed with chips, pitches and putts, so he's had to start anew from scratch in that regard as well.

At age 35, it was pointed out.

"I changed my entire release and how I did it with Hank," Woods said. "You want to have the same type of swing with the putter all the way up to the driver. It's the same motion just smaller, and the pitch shot is the same."

Of course, the degree to whcih the short game should be affected by an overall swing change is debatable and will surely fuel a few fires in the Internet chat-o-sphere. 

"If I use one swing, if I hit thousands of chip shots and only hit a few hundred balls, well if I'm doing the same release that I used to, that's totally contrary to what I'm doing with the swing," he said.

In other words, whereas his short game was able a stable platform from which to build the rest of his game, it's in transition at the moment, too.

Interestingly, though the rounder and flatter Haney swing was a big departure from the Harmon method, Haney said Wednesday that the only adjustments Woods made in the short game during their six years together was in the former world No. 1's bunker play, because sand shots are more akin to a full swing.

"I never instituted any change to his putting or for that matter his chipping or his pitching," Haney said in an email Wednesday.

Harmon, working this week as an analyst for Sky Sports in Europe, heard about Woods' comprehensive short-game revamp from a reporter. In their years together, Harmon said they often worked on the short game, but not as an extension of the full swing.

"Did he really say that?" Harmon said. "I am surprised to hear that."

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