Big Play Bruce Lietzke's loopy swing looks weird, but it helped him master Inverness's rough and pull off shots like the eight-iron that cinched his win

July 06, 2003

It has been fascinating to watch the men with pro golf's most
off-plane swings--Jim Furyk and Bruce Lietzke--win the U.S. Open
and the U.S. Senior Open, respectively. Furyk goes outside during
the takeaway and drops the club inside while sweeping down into
the ball. Lietzke starts inside, casts the club away from his
body at the top and draws it back toward his torso while
descending through impact. These guys are national champions
because they have effective and repetitive swings, especially
Lietzke, who is the game's most one-dimensional player. Lietzke
has one shot--a fade--and his genius is that he has never tried
to change his action. Lietzke's in-out-in swing path is great in
gnarly rough like Inverness's, because it produces a very steep
angle of attack, allowing the club to avoid getting caught in the
grass before striking the ball. That's how Lietzke could hit only
47% of the greens in regulation to rank 58th out of the 60 who
made the cut and still beat Tom Watson by two strokes. Of all the
shots Lietzke hit from the thick stuff last week, his best was
the 136-yard eight-iron to within two feet at the 16th hole on
Sunday (above). That shot set up the birdie that gave him an
insurmountable four-stroke lead.

THREE COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF NBC COLOR PHOTO: ANDREW GOMBERT (4) Mitchell Spearman teaches at Manhattan Woods Golf Club in West Nyack, N.Y., and is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher. THREE COLOR PHOTOMONTAGES: ANDREW GOMBERT (4); CHUCK SOLOMON (BACKGROUND)

OUR TOP TEACHER SAYS...

"Watching Richard S. Johnson and Fredrik Jacobson of Sweden,
a couple of new faces on Tour, tie for third in Memphis reminded
me of how odd it is that so many Swedish pros practice so much
but still have ungraceful swings--except for Annika Sorenstam."

"Unseasonable heat in my native England has given Royal St.
George's rock-hard fairways and thick rough, so my British Open
pick is Mike Weir, a ball control player who knows how to think
his way around a tough course."

"Tiger Woods's call for equipment testing at Tour events isn't
sour grapes. Any given week, up to a quarter of the field could
have illegal drivers, and I believe that some players use hot
balls."

"The site of last week's LPGA ShopRite Classic, the Marriott
Seaview Resort, was boring, flat and short, at 6,071 yards. The
women deserve a challenge to bring out the best in their games."

THE TIP
ROUGH DRILL

You don't need a swing as peculiar as Bruce Lietzke's to play out
of thick rough, but you do need a steep swing path. My rough
drill is a good way to refine your technique from the hay. Place
two balls six inches apart in thick grass, in-line with the
target. Using a seven-iron for full swings or a wedge for
chipping, address the ball that is closer to the hole, with the
club hovering just above the grass (1). During the downswing (2)
you should feel as if your left shoulder remains slightly lower
than the right shoulder, which will create a steeper angle of
attack. Through the impact zone (3) your clubhead should avoid
the first ball while striking down on the other ball. Hold the
club face square to the target.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)