ATHE NORTHERN TRUST 2021, Tony Finau entered the final round with a real shot at winning his second PGA Tour event. His first had come five years earlier, and between the two he finished second in tournaments eight times and finished 39 in the top 10. You can’t really blame him if he started wondering what it was going to take to get his second “W”.
Here’s what it took: On the fifth hole of the final round at New Jersey’s Liberty National, he drove it into the long grass and had to go up and down 89 yards to maintain momentum. It was a back hairpin in a strong wind and a soft green so the only way to get it closer was to get down the first flight and do a few laps. Tony did just that, hitting his corner shot about five feet out and then making the putt. If he hadn’t worked hard to master that move, which he used several times that day, he probably wouldn’t have won the tournament.
I bring this up because Tony’s stolen corner is really a nice shot-one you should want in your bag if you want to lower your scores. You see Tony demonstrate it here, and I’ll explain how he hits it later, along with several other must-have tee-to-green options.
We’ve been working together for nine years now, and I often find myself saying, “Nice shot, Tony.” Maybe I should put it on a hat or something. —With Ron Kasprike
Even with a shorter backswing than many tour pros, Tony can absolutely roast a disc whenever he wants. You might assume he achieves this by consciously trying to swing harder. This is not entirely true. What he does is speed up his pre-shot routine, making quicker movements and moving his feet at a faster rate. The faster tremors encourage him to pick up the club faster, which in turn creates more length in his backstroke to generate more power.
In addition to copying this when you want to stream one, be sure to do two other things. The first is to set yourself up so you can catch the ball on the rise and throw it higher. Do it high and stand a little wider which makes your spine pull away from the target a little more like you see Tony doing here (above). The second thing? Find the center of the face. Your fastest swing won’t produce your longest drive if you don’t hit it from the center of the face.
Tony loves hitting a small cup that flies a bit lower and shorter than a normal drive but is way more reliable than the bomb. Some people say to play further back in your stance to hit this shot, but it’s hard to start the ball left when you play it back. Instead, Tony narrows his stance, making his spine more upright. (above). In addition to bringing him down a bit, the narrow stance keeps the shot down without changing his ball position.
Now here’s the real key: swing at your normal speed, unrestrained, and feel the club move level with the ground in the sweetspot (above). Lowering it a bit and narrowing your stance like Tony does will help you launch it lower, so you’ll find more fairways. Don’t try to hit the ball, otherwise you will give it too much spin.
Compression is the key to a good iron game and Tony does a few things at address and during the swing to make sure he hits the ball while his irons are still moving on a downward angle of attack. down. Even though he doesn’t take a big divot here, his club still recoils a few inches after impact. That’s why Tony and other great hitters can hit a 6 iron over 200 yards. They are basically dislodging the club when it hits the ball, turning a 6 iron into a 3 iron.
Two other things to note about his iron game: 1) Tony has the shaft of his irons slightly bent towards the target at address. This is a great way to “preset” the position you want the club shaft to be in at impact. 2) Tony charges to his airside as he picks up the club, which is key to generating power through the ball, but notice he doesn’t move away from the target. If you swing away from the ball, you’ll have to swing in the opposite direction in the downswing or you’ll hit it big or thin. It’s hard to compress it with all that sideways movement.
Let’s start with the one thing Tony doesn’t do to hit that lower trajectory corner. He doesn’t set up with the ball in his stance, which is a common trick for this game. This backward ball position creates a steeper angle of attack and spins the ball more, causing it to fly higher high. Instead, play it in the same stance you would hit a normal corner kick, but bring your trailing foot towards your lead foot, narrowing your stance.
Then, when you swing, you want to feel like your head and sternum are staying above the ball during impact. If your head and sternum are behind the ball, you’re likely adding loft to the shot or making poor contact.
To take the spin, which is key to keeping it low and controlling distance, Tony boxes up and swings at a leisurely pace. Try your 9 iron from where you normally hit a pitching wedge, and when swinging, think sstay smooth.
When Tony makes chips, he loves hitting a low spinner. I like this shot for amateurs because it eliminates some common typing mistakes, like leaning back with your upper body or trying to help the ball in the air.
Tony sets up with his shoulders and hips square to the target, but the clubface is visibly open. He does this to counter his bent left wrist, which would deflate the club too much on impact. His other key when setting up is to make sure his head and sternum are above the ball.
When swinging, his grip pressure remains light to add some feel in his hands, but his upper body spin is primarily responsible for the shot. It descends its target line (above) and hits a little downward on the ball with a handle leaning slightly forward. This produces the low spiny chip.
Tony never hesitates to use a putter from the green. Neither should you be.
If you choose the putter, there are a few technical changes that Tony makes. First, he places the tree so that it is vertical or slightly inclined from the hole. Why? You want to make sure you have enough loft in the face to get the ball through the bangs easier. Second, you need more power in your shot, but you don’t want a lot of body movement to get it or you risk a miss. Instead, Tony gets a little more power by hinging his wrists back a bit (underneath) and put some pop in the ball.
When you hit it close to the green with a putter, I guarantee someone will say, “Nice shot.”