2010 Golfweek for Her: Cristie Kerr gains success from consistent practice

Cristie Kerr is one of the LPGA’s most consistent performers, and it’s easy to see why. She hits a lot of greens and putts well.

Kerr ranked second on the LPGA in greens in regulation last year (74.5 percent), and was 17th in putts per GIR (1.78).

Because she’s a strong ballstriker, Kerr isn’t one for big swing changes. She works instead on keeping a “neutral” swing that follows the proper plane and path.

“(Her practice) is nothing drastic, but a way for her, when she’s on the road, to practice effectively in a timely manner, so she’s not hitting balls for seven hours,” said her teacher, Bryan Lebedevitch.

Kerr has built a reliable putting stroke through repetition in practice, and spends time working on the speed of her putts so that she can control distance on longer putts.

The work has paid off. Kerr was No. 2 on last year’s money list. Since the start of 2008, she’s finished in the top 10 in 27 of 55 events, including three of her first four starts this year.

Kerr hasn’t won a major since the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open, but has finished in the top 10 in six of 10 Grand Slam events since her victory. She tied for fifth at last month’s Kraft Nabisco Championship.

“The more difficult the setup, the more simplified I get with my game,”

Kerr said, “because I know exactly what I have to do.”

On plane: point the shaft

To monitor her swing plane, Kerr chokes down to the bottom of the grip on her 5-wood.

“When you grip down, the butt end of the grip can act like a pointer,” Lebedevitch said.

Kerr’s normal shot is a draw, but she tends to get a little disconnected from impact to the

finish. When she is swinging too far inside-to-out, the shaft will point to the right of the target

line. Doing this drill, she is able to release the club back to the left and get the club back on plane.

When the shaft is pointing at the ground in the backswing and downswing, it will point at the target line if the shaft is on the proper plane.

Fit to a tee

Kerr is one of the world’s best players, but she still tees up her iron shots on the practice range.

“She hits balls off the tee so she’s not consumed by contact,” Lebedevitch said.

“If you’re hitting off the ground and the lies are inconsistent, you end up searching for ways to hit it more solidly and might start making unnecessary compensations.”

Kerr tees up the ball the same as she would on a par 3 during her “L-swing” drill.

“Just enough to create the same lie every time,” Lebedevitch said.

The L-swings, from a three-quarter backswing to a three-quarter follow-through, “help keep her downswing path pretty neutral and develop a strong impact area,” Lebedevitch said.

Added Kerr: “They are one of my go-to drills because they simplify things a lot. Working on my swing plane every day allows my swing to hold up under pressure.”

Staying connected:The ‘drag drill’ and using a glove

Kerr has a tendency for her arms to swing too far to the right through impact. She uses a couple of drills to fix this problem:

The “drag drill” helps her feel her body and club moving in unison through impact into the early follow-through. Kerr starts the drill by posing in a position just before impact – the club is even with her right toe, a couple of inches above the ground and slightly inside the target line with the face slightly open. From there, Kerr adds pressure to the shaft and drags the club through impact with her body turn, Lebedevitch said.

“I get the feeling with the drag drill of the club staying closer to me and exiting better (more on plane) in the through-swing,” Kerr said.

To stay connected through impact, Kerr puts a glove in her left armpit and tries to keep the glove in place throughout her swing.

Kerr hits big fades on the range to exaggerate the feeling of the club swinging to the left through impact.

Sidehill fix for short game

On the full swing, Kerr has a tendency to come too far from the inside. The opposite is true in the short game: She has a tendency to come slightly from the outside on shorter pitches.

To fix that fault, Kerr chips balls off a sidehill lie, with the ball above her feet.

“On 30- or 40-yard pitches . . . there is less of a body coil, so it is easier for her club to be too far on the outside,” Lebedevitch said. “This can cause pulls or a ball that squirts a little to the right.”

Hitting balls off the sidehill lie helps golfers to shallow out their path into impact, Lebedevitch said. Many players use this drill to eliminate the over-the-top move from their downswing.

Putting drills

Kerr is one of the LPGA’s best putters, and she uses some fairly common drills. She uses a chalk line and also practices a version of the “gate drill,” in which players put tees just in front of the putter head and line of the putt to make sure the putter and ball follow the proper path (pictured above). The ball will hit a tee if Kerr makes the slightest mistake with clubhead path or clubface control.

She performs these drills almost every time she steps onto the practice green.

“I would compare it to shooting free throws,” Lebedevitch said. “You do something like that every day and it helps to groove a simple, repetitive stroke.”

To help keep her head still during her putting stroke – and ensure solid contact – Kerr sticks a tee in her mouth. She tries to keep the tee, which she can see during her stroke, from moving.

Speed also is key to Kerr’s success on the greens. She does something unique to work on this. She picks the fastest downhill putt she can find, then places a shaft a foot behind the hole, and tries to hit putts that roll past the hole and stop before the shaft. She starts at 6 feet, then hits putts as long as 40 feet, Lebedevitch said. She does the same drill, but with uphill putts, on slower greens.

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