Tiger Woods required Phil Mickelson-like short game magic to stay within striking distance as the round progressed on Friday at The Match. With his putter failing him since the opening holes, Tiger fell into a pattern of: missed fairway, missed green and execute a solid pitch or chip to secure a par.
Woods only led for one hole during the round, but the viewers did get to see a vintage Tiger moment. On the par-3 17th hole, Tiger flushed his approach shot and looked like he was going to have a great look at birdie — or maybe even stick one inside of Phil and apply some pressure.
However, like so many other shots he had hit during the round — and a precursor his inability to control his distance in the playoff — Woods hit it long into the fringe beyond the green.
— Bleacher Report Live (@brlive) November 23, 2018
This miss was a blessing. Tiger had burned the edges with a couple chips earlier in the round, giving him the confidence, vision and feel needed as he addressed the shot with an assassin-like killer instinct. Any hope to win in regulation required this shot to go in and he executed it perfectly.
The chip required minimal carry and plenty of release (the release is the amount the ball will roll forward after the backspin from the chip has dissipated).
The lie was nestled just enough in the fringe to require Tiger to take higher-lofted iron — a pitching wedge or gap wedge with anywhere from 48-52° of loft. Notice how he stood very close to the ball with his hands set high. The act of taking a putting-like posture does two key things crucial for this shot.
First, it sets the shaft angle very upright, which creates a steep path. This path allows the clubhead to work straight back on the backswing and directly down behind the ball at impact. The club entering directly behind the ball not only removes the interference of the grass between the club and the ball, but it also regulates the amount of spin the player wants to have on the shot.
Speaking of spin, the second thing this posture does is keep Tiger’s hands high. The close body position eliminates excessive hand action, which allows the club to pass through impact much like a putting stroke, ensuring the little spin on the ball to be predictable as a result of groove contact.
Tiger regulates the carry of the shot with the length of the backswing, and unlike many of his putts during the round, accelerates through the ball. Finally getting a birdie look online and with aggressive speed, the birdie dropped and we got a vintage Tiger fist pump.
The play for both players was subpar, but this birdie chip-in was one of the few highlights and a great reminder to put away the lob wedge when close to the green. Opt for a lower running shot for a better chance of holing out.