2005: The right ways to avoid danger to the left

Even the world’s best players hit the ball left into serious trouble when they can’t afford to.

Darren Clarke blew the recent MCI Heritage, going 9 over par on the last 13 holes because he kept getting into trouble left. The next week, John Daly made a quick exit from a Shell Houston Open playoff because he drove into water left. Eventual winner Tiger Woods almost got into a big spot of bother when he hooked his tee shot on No. 10 in the final round of this year’s Masters, but the ball hit a tree and bounced back into rough instead of going deep into a forest.

Vijay Singh blew himself out of the co-lead in this year’s Mercedes Championships final round when he hooked into junk on No. 13 and made triple bogey. Adam Scott yanked an iron approach into water on the last hole of the 2004 Players Championship before getting up-and-down to win.

“They all have cut swings, every one of those guys,” said Dr. Jim Suttie, national PGA Teacher of the Year in 2000. “Sometimes their cut swing backfires because they have a closed clubface at impact. Sometimes their body gets too far ahead of their hands and arms, and the pull hook comes in when they use their hands to catch up.”

So, then, how do you eliminate the left side of the course?

“Everything has to be fade fundamentals,” Suttie said, “lining up open, having a weak grip, having the ball up in your stance, have an outside takeaway, turning your hips and chest so they’re open at impact.”

Highly regarded instructor Peter Kostis suggests firing the right knee to the left knee, straightening the left leg and clearing the left hip. That is something Ben Hogan, incomparable ball-striker and noted fader, did.

“The legs and hips eliminate hitting it left,” Kostis said. “The faster you rotate the hips, the greater the tendency for the ball to go right.”

Emil Esposito, former Illinois Open and PGA champion and now head instructor at the Glen Club in Glenview, Ill., says, “If the left hand leads, the ball cannot go left. Keep the left hand going through. If the left side breaks down, the right side will take over and the ball will go left.”

Dan Kochevar, 2002 Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year, says when you lean forward with the upper body on the downswing, the chances of the ball going left diminish.

“Don’t let your upper body hang back,” he said. “The anti-left move is a lean forward.”

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