SMALL ADJUSTMENTS HAVE BROUGHT BIG
GAINS FOR A QUINTET WHO COULD GIVE RORY
MciLROY A RUN AT THE PGA CHAMPIONSHIP.
By Evan Rothman
After a Sunday meltdown that cost him this year's Masters, RORYMciLROYknew he
needed help. He'd four-putted the par-3 12th hole on his way to a humiliating
final-round 80, and his flatstick needed fixing. He hired putting guru Dave Stockton
Sr.,who saw a solution: Raise Rory's left hand to keep his wrist solid through impact.
"The lower the hands are, the more putts go left, and that's where most of Rory's
misses were," Stockton says. Ten weeks later, Mcilroy rolled in 19 birdies and an eagle
in setting the U.S.Open record for lowest score. Easy game.
Competitors took note. Many of golf's hottest players heading into the PGA
Championship (Aug. 11-14) have also recently tweaked their games. It's only fitting.
The host course, the Atlanta Athletic Club, will play plenty hard, after a Rees Jones
redesign that toughened the bunkers and added 254 yardS. At the year's final major,
there will be meltdowns, but these five players seem cool enough to handle the heat.
LUKE DONALD JASON DAY NICKWATNEY MARTIN LJMRD GARY WOODLAND
WORLD RANK 1 (Start of WORLD RANK 9 (2010: 140) WORLD RANK 10 (2010: 32) WORLD RANK 26 (2010: 101) WORLD RANK 40 (2010: 959
2010:28)" TELLING STAT Scrambling: fifth TELLING STAT Approaches from TELLING STAT Total putting: TELLING STAT Greensin
TELUNGSTATPar-5 birdie-or- on tour (2010: 51st) 75 to 100 yards: second on tour 10th on tour (2010: 116th) regulation from other than fairwi
better average:third on tour PROBLEM Superstardom was (2010: 76th) PROBLEM At last year's Barclays, ninth on tour (2009**: 121st)
(2010: 106th) predicted for Day since he won PROBLEM Watney has climbed Laird, the Great Scottish Hope, PROBLEM A former DivisionII
PROBLEM Despite a classic swing his first Nationwide Tour start at the world rankings, but what most needed to two-putt from 25 feet college basketball player,
and a short game to die for, age 19, but success and a reliable remember was his collapse at the on the 72nd hole to win. He Woodland was famously long.
Donald entered 2011 an short game have eluded him. PGAChampionship at Whistling three-jacked it and lost a playoff Unfortunately, he was also
enigma-only two wins in almost SOLVED The 23-year-old Aussie Straits, where he entered Sunday to rising star Matt Kuchar. Guh. famously crooked.
a decade on the tour. credits his improved short-game with a three-shot lead only to SOLVED Laird hired putting SOLVED Woodland, 27,hastak
SOLVED Now he's the 15th golfer stats-including a move from shoot 81 and finish T18. After the coach Dave Stockton Jr. (yes,the a page from Ben Hogan's book t
to reach No.1, and suddenly he's 35th to second in sand season, both player and coach son of Mcilroy's guru), and their trying to eliminate hooks and ar
feasting on par 5's. Why?Stats say saves-to smarter practice Butch Harmon judged Watney's work since has focused on being trouble left off the tee-aithoul
the 33-year-old Englishman has habits. "It's not about hitting 50 wedge play bluntly. "Terrible," natural, not technical. Out went largely through equipment. "We
improved his third-shot wedges more balls than you used to hit," Harmon says."We made the alignment line on his ball. built a club that doesn't go left:'
(from 154th to first in approaches Day says. "It's about ...practicing improving that our main goal." Ditto practice strokes. The Woodland says.The lie angle of
from 75 to 100 yards), but Pat the way you play on the course." SOLVED The coach saw a 28-year-old Laird now takes his his Titleist 91003 was flattened
Goss,Donald's coach, cites He now cycles among 10 chips, too-handsy swing. The fix? "A stance while eyeing the hole, then 1.5°,the clubface was opened
sharper driving; Donald has leaped 10 bunker shots and 10 shots shorter, tighter swing where the "
pulls the trigger ASAP. Dave 1.5°, and to make triple-sure thl
from 120th to 30th in driving from the rough and says the arm speed and the body speed wants me to use my feel and eye," clubface stays open through
accuracy. "Luke has worked this stunning 45-hole bogey-free match up," Harmon says."Nick's Laird says.Redemption was impact, rat glue was injected int
year on getting more width and stretch he conjured at the U.S. worked real hard on it." And he's sweet: Laird two-putted from the clubhead's toe for extra
shortening his driver swing," Goss Open depended largely on his reaped the rewards: Through 87 feet on the 72nd hole to weight. "It's not that I'm hitting
says,which should serve him well scrambling. Next stop, mid-July, Watney, 30, had take the 2011 Arnold Palmer more fairways, but I know when
on MC's sun-baked fairways. superstardom. pocketed $4.2 million in winnings. Invitational by a shot. the bali's going now."
'All ronkings and statistics through July 18. ~Woodland's last full PGA Tour season