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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Zach Johnson on Controlling Pitches (Videos)

Since Zach Johnson is leading the Open at the time I'm writing this (between 2nd and 3rd rounds), I thought it would be fun to look at his pitching technique. I have two videos, one for a 40-yard shot and another for an 80-yard shot, to give you a better look at his technique.

Compare the similarities between the 40-yarder in the first video with the 80-yarder in the next one.

Note that Zach has a very flat, very "under the plane" swing. While I generally talk about one-piece takeaways, simply because most players don't swing as flat as Zach, his full swing is flat as well so he uses the same technique. The more similar you can make your short game and long game techniques, the more consistent you'll generally be.

Between the two videos, we can pick out these keys for a pitch shot:
  • Narrow stance, slightly open, a little more weight on the lead foot. (Zach says 60%-40%, but you don't have to be too exact about it.)
  • Ball is back in his narrow stance, just inside his trailing foot.
  • Zach doesn't use the "clock technique" -- that is, various length backswings with your hand positions described by clock hands (ie, eight o'clock) -- but goes entirely by feel.
That feel thing is the primary thing he does differently from most of the instructional books you'll find (including mine). He may make the same length swing on both of the shots in the videos, but vary the speed of his swing rather than the length. It's a method that requires more practice but may suit some of you better. Trust me, you'll know if it does!

And clearly it works well for Zach. Always go for the method that works best for you, not some supposedly "right" way of playing. We're each different, and we have to learn to play to our strengths if we hope to play well.

It will be interesting to see how Zach finishes this major. Tough conditions play into his hands, as witnessed by his two majors coming on tough courses in nasty conditions. One thing's for sure: if it comes down to a war of wedges, my money's on Zach.

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