This year’s Wells Fargo Championship boasted a top-class field and, as is usually the case, the great venue provided a thrilling finish with the proverbial cream rising to the top as Rickie Fowler claimed his first win on the PGA Tour.
At the end of regulation play, Fowler posted 14-under par first and sat back and watched as Rory McIlroy (playing in the twosome behind him) parred the final hole to remain tied with him. D.A. Points, playing in the group with McIlroy, then made it a three-way tie when he bogeyed the 18th.
The only other player that could alter the playoff scenario was, local boy and 54-hole leader, Webb Simpson who had to make birdie on the final hole to get into the playoff. Birdies do not come too easily on the 18th though (it is perennially ranked as one of the toughest finishing holes on the PGA Tour) and Simpson was unable to make the requisite three and a three-way sudden death playoff ensued.
After a great drive and a wedge to four feet Fowler grabbed his chance with both hands as he knocked in the putt for birdie and the title. The victory somewhat fulfilled the hype that has surrounded him since his arrival on the world golf scene.
Always stylish and well-liked, Fowler was beginning to hear “that” question more and more. ‘When are you going to break through and win?’ Well he answered the doubters with an emphatic exclamation point as he broke through and won – and beat the World Number 1 – with a birdie on one of the toughest holes in the game.
So what can we learn from the contenders at The Wells Fargo Championship:
One purpose, many ways:
All too often I have people come for lessons who are excessively concerned with making a proper backswing or a certain style of swing. It is at that time that I make the point to them that no matter what the swing looks like and indeed how the backswing performs, the quality of the swing is determined by the flight of the ball. I then hasten to add that if a certain style swing was key to success then the PGA Tour would look like a vastly different place.
The cast of characters that were in contention at Quail Hollow brought a smile to my face – there was a nice mix of “individual” techniques; some of them fundamentally sound and others not. They all had one thing in common though and that was that the fact that they all fulfilled the purpose of the swing: the correct presentation of the clubface to the ball through the impact zone.
Another point that made me happy was that all of the contenders were players that have worked with one individual, someone that knew them intimately, for a long time. Rickie Fowler has only ever had one coach, Barry McDonnell. Sadly McDonnell passed away about a year ago but the pro at the Murrieta Valley Golf Range in California obviously did a fantastic job in helping Fowler to understand the critical success factors and individual nuances to his swing as Fowler has worked with anyone else since.
McIlroy has also worked with his Northern Irish club pro, Michael Bannon, since he was a youngster. McIlroy has since retained the services of Dave Stockton to assist with his putting but he still turns to Bannon, who helped him forge that beautiful and powerful action, for advice from tee to green.
Further, D.A. Points has worked with Brian Mogg for a long while. Webb Simpson has only had one instructor, Ted Kiegel and Lee Westwood has worked with Pete Cowan for the bulk of his career.
So learn from the pros. The golf swing has one purpose – to present the clubface in a desired fashion to the ball at impact – and there are many ways of doing that consistently. Find someone that knows his or her stuff; someone that can communicate well and understands you, and stick with them and trust them as you build a relationship and a swing that fulfills its purpose.
Hit more Greens in Regulation:
You will often hear me proclaim the virtues of a good putter as there is no way you can compete for any title unless you make your share of putts.
Well with that being said, on a demanding venue like Quail Hollow, it is essential to get as many opportunities for birdie as possible. Proof of the fact is that the three members of the playoff were all in the top five in the Greens in Regulation statistical category. Fowler and McIlroy both hit 79.2% of the greens in regulation which was T5th in the field. D.A. Points led the field in G.I.R. hitting 80.6% of the targets.
To hit more greens ensure that your swing is stable, and that your clubhead is square through impact as it bottoms out in the correct place. To stabilize your swing, maintain a steady spine-angle, a stable head and a dynamic but quiet leg action.
If any of those elements perform in a vigorous or unstable fashion there is every chance that your swing arc, and its landing spot, will be compromised and the ball-strike will suffer.
To ensure that your clubhead swings accurately and squarely, check your grip for fundamental soundness, your forearm action for the proper release, and reduce any excess shoulder effort and work. As always you can secure the help of your PGA Pro to help you check on these facets.
Play well and enjoy our great game.