Santiago Tarrio, on Sunday on the par-3 17th at Yas Links, hit his tee shot into a right greenside bunker, and we’ll stop it right there. What was to come next may best be described by the shot’s innovator.
Take it away, Phil Mickelson.
“The backward shot. This shot is fun.”
Sure is. It’s a film-a-tutorial-on-how-to-hit-it kind of fun, which is exactly what Lefty did, after he pulled the shot off, from a bunker at the 1995 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (and tried it again at the 2015 Barclays). And it’s most assuredly a pull-your-phone-out-and-hit-record shot, too, which is exactly what someone nearby did after Tarrio’s tee shot during Sunday’s final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. (It appears to have been Tarrio’s playing partner Matt Wallace who posted the video to his Instagram stories.)
On Tarrio’s shot, with the ball on the upslope of the back of the bunker, and his body tilted along with it, he swung facing away from the hole, the ball arced backward, and it dropped near the pin before finishing about 6 feet away. Was there another play? Undoubtedly. Tarrio could have gone the traditional, face-to-the-flag direction, though it maybe would have been just as difficult, if not more so, to catch a wedge under the ball from there. And, of course, to quote Mickelson again, the backward shot is fun
The reactions said as much. From the background, someone shouted, “Oh my goodness,” and afterward, Lee Westwood tweeted: “That is impressive @santi_tarrio !!!” Tarrio? He lifted both arms and took a bow.
Tarrio missed the par putt.
Let’s leave on a fun note. Mickelson’s video on the backward shot was a tutorial, and for the curious, here was his lesson on how to hit it. (The full video is below.)
“I have had to use it in competition,” Mickelson said. “At the AT&T National Pro-Am, I hit it over the green in the back edge of the bunker on a severe slope and was able to hit the backward shot onto the green.
“So I’m going to try to get underneath the ball with the club and then kind of flip it back with my hands. We got the pin set up over here, about 35 feet away. I’m going to set myself with the hill here. My body, my shoulders, everything is with the hill. I’m going to come from underneath, and I’m just going to flip it back with my hands.”
Mickelson then hit to within about 3 feet.