One of the best things about being at The Open is that you get the chance to watch the best players hit shots in the flesh. Seeing the power and poise of the swing, listening to the strike and watching the unfaltering flight of the proceeding shot leaves you in absolute awe of the man in front of you.
Being the instruction editor at Golf Monthly I managed to wangle myself a pass that allowed me to stroll around and watch the players at even closer quarters. It was a fascinating experience. Here?s a run down of the players that I monitored and what they were working on:
Everyone knows that Vijay is a hard worker but this only really hit home to me today. With a shaft stuck in the ground behind him and another on the ground as an alignment aid, he balls for at least an hour before going out. It all looked very technical for a pre-match warm up but it?s clearly a routine that he knows will help him play his best golf. Swinging his trademark heavy club, I was shocked by just how flexible he is. He must have unbelievable stamina too to go through all this and then play 18 holes.
The Northern Irishman arrived on the practice ground after his round of 72 for a post mortem with coach Pete Cowan. After an in-depth discussion, he started hitting shots with his feet crossed. I?ve seen this drill a few times and the theory is that it helps a player to get a better feel for his balance through the swing.
After shooting 78 this morning the Englishman clearly had some issues to resolve and he was working hard on the range. It was clear that he was frustrated with the way he was hitting the ball and was desperately searching for a swing that would help him make the cut. From what I could tell he was working on the movement of his wrists at the start of the swing. It all seemed very technical.
Westwood was warming up before his round, starting with his wedges and working upwards through the bag. For the 45 minutes that he was standing in front of me, the quality of his ball striking was faultless. The thing that struck me here was how deliberate he was over every single shot. He didn?t hit a ball until he was absolutely ready ? he didn?t waste a shot. I?ll try to remember this for the next time I venture to the range.
Working with coach Pete Cowan, Stenson was hitting his 3-wood and then his driver at the end of his pre-round practice routine. I was surprised to see him concentrating so hard on a single aspect of his technique, as he was, immediately prior to going out. I suppose this goes to show that every player has a different way of preparing for the challenge ahead. I also noticed that he has developed a slightly strange pause at the start of his backswing? (note to self: must ask him about this the next time we shoot a GM instruction feature).
I was surprised by just how hard the American was hitting the ball with his driver. I?d always been told that in the wind it was a good idea to hit the ball softly to ensure that too much backspin doesn?t balloon the ball high into the air. The shots he hit were imperious, high-flying bullets that were carrying 300 yards so maybe this rule doesn?t apply to him. Mahan also didn?t practice changing his ball flight at all which surprised me for two reasons a) that he was brought up in Texas and he knows how to do it and b) the strength of the breeze that was beginning to pick up.