By Jeff Rendall
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 5, 2006 9:48 AM
If you need any more evidence that recreational golfers are descended directly from gorillas, look no further than the out-of-nowhere stardom of young Bubba Watson. This year's PGA "it" boy, a 28-year-old who appears to cut his own hair, averages 319 yards off the tee. Early this season he smote one 398 yards. If he hit that shot at Augusta's No. 3, he'd overshoot the green by 50 yards and have to take his second shot from the No. 4 tee.
The catch is, young Bubba's ball winds up on the fairway only 43 percent of the time. Which is to say that about six times out of 10, he is trying to hoe his second shot out of the weeds.
We propose a better role model: Fred Funk, who will turn 50 next month. The late-blooming Presidents Cup team member, former University of Maryland golf coach and quirky fan favorite has unnerving accuracy off the tee. He hits the fairway 80 percent of the time, about 267 yards downfield. You can fund a comfortable retirement betting that Funk's tee shots will land in the short grass. Funk himself has made more than $18 million playing golf this way.
So it's your choice: Be like Bubba and strap on a truss, swing yourself right out of your FootJoys and watch your tee shot disappear across the adjacent fairway.
Or be like Funk. Follow his advice on hitting it straight, which we offer here as a public service, and watch your scores drop. You will enjoy helping your partners looking for lost balls. They will silently resent your newfound skill. You will win their lunch money.
Golf doesn't get much better than that.
Set Up Right
Funk says a straight tee shot (stop us if you're heard this before) begins with solid fundamentals: grip, alignment, posture, balance. If you don't, Funk says, "everything is so off that you'd have to have so many compensations in the golf swing" to hit it square regularly.
Getting Funk-y Assume a balanced, athletic position, bending at the hips, weight on the balls of your feet. Make sure your feet and shoulders are parallel to the target line, not angled toward the target.
"I would say that my downswing mirrors the path of my backswing pretty closely," Funk says. He attributes this partly to consistent posture throughout the swing -- another fundamental.
Getting Funk-y Keep a consistent spine angle throughout your swing. See the yellow lines we've drawn showing the angle of his back on both his setup and backswing? They're just about the same. That's a consistent spine angle.
Funk says one swing thought he goes back to regularly -- yes, even Players Championship winners use swing thoughts -- is staying "connected." "One important aspect of that is keeping the triangle -- formed by your shoulders, arms and hands, and the club as an extension of that -- in front of you throughout the swing," he told Golf Digest.
Getting Funk-y Grab a club halfway down the shaft and hold the butt end of the grip against your sternum. Now turn your body to the right, keeping your hands right in front of your sternum. Now turn your body left, still keeping your hands in front of your sternum, as in a follow-through. (Your spine angle remains unchanged, of course.) That's being connected.
Most amateurs "grip the club too tightly, tense up and lose their rhythm. That's going to make them shorter," Funk told Golf Digest.
Getting Funk-y "Do the opposite of what your body tells you: Stay loose and relaxed." Be like Fred and you'll have a follow-through like this -- and a great view of your ball landing on freshly mown lawn.
Interview by Jeff Rendall