Bill Nichols

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Inside the Ropes at the Nelson

IRVING _ Welcome to the special power hitting edition of Ropes:

When Gary Woodland plays the PGA Tour’s longest par-4 on Thursday, No. 3 at the TPC Four Seasons at Las Colinas, he’ll hit a 3-wood off the tee.

On No. 18, he’ll go with a 2-iron, which leaves him with a lob wedge.

He loves playing this course, not because he can overpower it with his 305-yard drives, but because he can play it like the shotmakers play Colonial.

He’ll hit driver on only five holes. That is, unless he lands in the rough on a par-5. The big dog can hunt there.

``This golf course suits me very well,’’ Woodland said. ``Every hole I hit driver on here allows me to hit the fade, and I love that. The rough stuff, I can use my driver and use it to my advantage here for sure. That’s one of the reasons I like coming back here.’’

Woodland grew up in Kansas. He lived in Dallas for one year, and works with renowned instructor Randy Smith of Royal Oaks.

Woodland tees the ball real low. It enhances his left-to-right trajectory, as does the 200-mph ball speed he can generate.

``It helps me cut the ball, that’s the main deal,’’ he said. ``The driver’s set up to cut and so teeing it down low just adds to it. If I have to hit it right to left, I’ll tee it up.’’

Do you ever hit driver off the deck?

``I do, but not off the tee box anymore. I used to a lot. But the (club) heads have gotten way too big, I can’t do it anymore. It’s almost better to hit it high on the face than low on the face to keep it low. I like to de-loft a little bit at impact.’’


Dustin Johnson is like Woodland in that he was an accomplished basketball player before he decided to pocket gazillions hitting dimpled orbs.

He, too, can’t help but kill the ball. Just when you think he’s barely swinging, he has overblown a par-4 green.

He also loves the TPC Four Seasons, but primarily for other reasons.

``I like the green complexes,’’ he said. ``You can work the ball into the hole locations, and the greens are good, and I read the greens well, so I putt pretty well out here.’’


Tale of the Tape

Johnson Woodland

305 yards Driver 305 yards

280 3-wood 280

265 5-wood/2-iron 255

240 3-iron 235

230 4-iron 225

220 5-iron 215

205 6-iron 200

190 7-iron 185

175 8-iron 170

160 9-iron 155

145 Wedge 140

125 Sand wedge 120

105 Lob wedge 100

*-When asked for his distances, Johnson had a one-up advantage in that Ropes lazily handed him the notebook, and he saw Woodland’s. He handed the notebook back, saying, ``Pretty much the same, just make my irons five yards longer.’’


Not all long drives are hit by long drivers. Consider: Dallas’ Justin Leonard, who makes his living on accuracy, owns one of the 10 longest drives on Tour this season _ 388 yards at TPC San Antonio. The longest: J.B. Holmes _ 415 yards, also in San Antonio.


Dallas amateur Jordan Spieth, who tied for 16th last year at age 16, took the opposite approach from most of his generation in climbing the distance ladder. He developed a strong short game early.

Since adding 20 pounds (mostly muscle), he’s now driving it around 300 yards. And he still has a killer short game.

``Almost all the tournaments I play in, everyone else is older, so they’re definitely hitting it further,’’ said Spieth, who has moved from junior to amateur competition. ``I’m starting to catch up.’’

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