Moving on to the last hole at Winged Foot, I thought this bit from Geoff Ogilvy's Golf Digest Interview with John Huggan was interesting because he downplays the severity of he divot lie in the 18th fairway and emphasizes (as we suspected here last year) that the chip shot on 18 was rather incredible. I also like the sound practical advice about wedge play around the greens from Dale Lynch...
So you posed the finish?
Oh, yes. [Laughs.] I looked at it for a long time. It hit up on the green, and even then I thought it was going to be all right. But then you hear the groans. And it starts trickling back. All week long shots had been taking big bounces up that green. I’m still surprised, given how hard the greens get at the end of a U.S. Open.
When I get to the ball, I realize it’s in a pretty filthy little spot. But then I see that Colin had made 6.
I was thinking if I got up and down for par I wasn’t going to be any worse than second. At that point, all Phil has to do is par the last to win, unless I chip in. But that wasn’t realistic. The reality was that I was 30 yards from the hole, 10 feet below the level of the cup and chipping off a really tight lie. And he’s one shot in front. It still didn’t look great.
I hit a pretty good chip shot, probably the best of my life. It was way better than the one I holed on the previous green.
Did your upbringing in Melbourne help you there? Some people would have putted from where you were.
Two things helped me there.
One, growing up in the Sandbelt, all you have there is tight-lie chips up hills when you miss a green. And that was a very Sandbelt-type shot off a tight lie. So I’m sure there was a level of comfort somewhere at the back of my head, knowing I had done that a thousand times at home.
Two, about three years ago Lynchy [instructor Dale Lynch] decided that my chipping action was poor for that particular type of shot. I did what most people do: I was trying to spin the ball a lot. I was hitting sand wedge and lob wedge from anywhere, taking more and more loft off the club. Before I knew it, I was hitting the shot I should hit, but with the wrong club.
It sounds obvious, but if the shot calls for an 8-iron, you hit an 8-iron; if you need a wedge, you hit a wedge. That helps your technique. For the first 18 months I just couldn’t do it. I was terrible. But I improved. And the reason I worked on it so hard was because of shots like I had at 18. Two and a half years ago I would have hit it a lot lower. So I would have had to really open the face and cut across the ball. Which is risky.
And the club?
I played it with my lob wedge.
You made it look straightforward.
Maybe, but it was a shot I’ve spent maybe five minutes on every day for the last three years. Sixty degrees is a lot of loft. But I played the shot properly with the right height. It came off just like I wanted. Even better, if you can imagine. At that point I was, for want of a better phrase, s----ing myself a bit. There are 10,000 people ’round the green, and it’s the culmination of 72 holes.