Tiger Hits Ridiculous Recovery From Pine Straw

Aaron Ungvarsky

Aaron Ungvarsky

PGA of America Professional, SwingU Instructor

Tiger Woods put together an opening round 5-under par 65 to hold a share of the first-round lead at the Tour Championship. While a back-nine 31 — capped off by an awesome eagle 3 on the par-5 18th — did most of the damage against par, it was an early-round momentum saver that allowed Woods to climb the leaderboard.

Opening with a bogey, Woods made back-to-back birdies on the 5th and 6th holes at East Lake before hitting a wayward drive that came to rest in some pine straw behind a tree to the right of the 7th fairway. 

Facing the difficult shot from 171 yards out, Woods carved a 9-iron 162 yards to the putting surface.

SwingU instructor Aaron Ungvarsky explains what you can learn from Woods’ ridiculously good recovery.

The key to great shots off pine straw are in what you don’t do. That may sound odd, but remembering these few tips can help how you play from this abnormal lie and hit the green.

The Setup

  • Pine straw creates a very unstable foundation for the both where the ball lies and where we take our stance. As you address the ball and walk into the shot, observe how the pine straw reacts. If simply walking towards the ball results in a lot of movement and changing of the surface level, you have to be very cautious as your ball may move, resulting in a penalty.
  • When you have made it to your address position and avoided causing the ball to move, feel like your feet are stuck once you’ve created your stance. There should be limited lower body action in this shot.
  • Due to the uncertainty of how any added pressure will change the lie, do not ground your club. You see most pros, and Tiger in our example, hover the club above the surface to avoid causing the ball to move before impact. This is not as difficult as it sounds. Simply raise your chest up slightly and position your weight forward at address.
  • The ball should be played back of center and in the best position to contact the back of it cleanly before any pine straw.

The Swing

  • Stability is the goal when swinging as it is very easy to lose footing and slip while swinging off pine straw. A wider and more secure stance is the foundation for a successful swing from this lie. –
  • As you begin the swing, focus on a wide and smooth move back to the top of the backswing. Staying wider makes it easier for amateurs to create speed and power while keeping the lower body quiet with limited rotation from the hips down.
  • The transition or change of direction should be subtle. An abrupt change is what will trigger your back foot from needing to create more pressure to stabilize your swing, resulting in your foot slipping out from under you. Focus on bringing your arms back in front of your body and swinging down on a path that is steeper than your backswing.
  • After impact, allow your body weight and pressure to transfer, following the clubhead through and down the line. Because the stance is built on ground that is unstable, there are no style points for a perfect finish. Instead, focus on delivering a square clubface to the back of the ball.