Ghost Association of Massachusetts
This weekend was just another example of how only Tiger Woods can bring a certain level of intensity, anticipation and excitement to the game of golf. With the television ratings through the roof, Tiger was right on cue with great shots and timely putting to get back in the winner's circle for the 66th time on the PGA TOUR.
Unfortunately, like many Sunday leaders when Tiger is lurking, Sean O'Hair couldn't close the deal as his five-shot lead melted away throughout the final round. O'Hair seems to be doing a lot of good things with his game but he needs to show more confidence on Sunday to take that next step. I'm sure this one hurts for O'Hair, however, I anticipate he will learn from it and continue to move forward.
What Can We Learn
There are so many things we can learn from Tiger Woods. Throughout his career, I have always admired how the world's greatest player has continued to make changes and work on his game. I have heard time and time again that he "just wants to get better." After winning the Masters in 1997 by 12 shots, Tiger made his first significant swing change with his long-time coach Butch Harmon.
Again, after winning the Masters by 12 shots -- all is good, right? Not for Tiger. Things needed to improve.
Under Harmon's tutelage, Tiger was able to get his arm swing and body more in-sync. Some of the changes saw Tiger tighten up his backswing by decreasing his hip turn and shortening his arm swing. This more compact motion gave Tiger more control and the opportunity to hit a larger variety of shots.
Tiger Woods' most recent swing changes gave him a greater margin for error.
In addition to the improved technique, it seemed Butch was also a great teacher on the mental side of the game. Armed with so much knowledge he learned from his father Claude, Butch was able to have an impact on how Tiger played the game as well. The two had many conversations on course strategy, using your imagination, shaping shots to fit the situation, managing pressure, etc. This long-term relationship between Tiger and Butch was very successful, but like so many instructor-teacher relationships on the PGA TOUR, it eventually came to an end.
In 2004, Tiger switched to Hank Haney, but the goal was still "to get better." This time, Tiger was very focused on becoming more consistent in the majors. The two mapped out a plan for this to happen, and after Sunday at Bay Hill, I would say Tiger is right back on track.
Basically, they have made two changes that have made Tiger a more consistent ballstriker. The first change allowed Tiger to keep the club shaft on-plane throughout the entire swing. If you look at Tiger's top of the swing, his club shaft is pointing left of the target as it stops short of parallel. This three-quarter looking position often times looks laid off to people, but geometrically, it isn't because of its relationship to the target line. If the club shaft doesn't reach parallel, then at every point short of parallel, the butt end of the club needs to point at the extended target line, which gives the shaft this laid-off appearance.
Before Haney, Tiger, would get the club off plane too soon during the backswing, where the club shaft would point to the right of the target. Although not ideal, Tiger was able to adjust the downswing creating the necessary movements with the body and club to hit very effective shots.
The second change went hand-in-hand with the first to support the new position of the club shaft at the top of the swing. This change allowed Tiger to set the clubface square at the top, rather than closed. One of the misses for Tiger in the 1990s was a hook because the clubface was often closed. This became a problem for Tiger not only with his long game, but also in controlling distance with his short shots. Again, through tremendous coordination and an unparalleled work ethic, Tiger got better.
You will often see Tiger rehearse his new clubface position at the top during his pre-shot routine where he really exaggerates opening the clubface. The end result sees clubface angle match the back of his left hand and forearm. This ideal clubface position allows Tiger to swing more freely to impact with less compensation.
These two changes have really helped Tiger's ballstriking and are two positions that we can all learn from. Setting the club shaft on-plane at the top of the swing with the clubface square are two great qualities. Working your swing in this direction will only make it easier to achieve the proper impact on a more consistent basis.
It's fun talking about Tiger because the guy is simply in uncharted waters. Again, I have always been so impressed on his efforts to get better. He sets such a good example on what it takes to improve at the game. With that said, I have always been amazed that more amateurs don't take lessons. I think we all agree that golf is very difficult, but yet most don't seek any help. In fact, about 90 percent of golfers won't take any formal instruction this year based on past surveys.
Two of my favorite excuses I have heard over the years are as followed:
1. "I don't take lessons because I am afraid it will ruin my game". I have never understood this one as usually this is the person who can barely break 100. With all due respect -- come on.
2. "It feels different when I make changes." Yep, it sure does.
One of the biggest barriers in golf is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. As Albert Einstein put it, this is what defines insanity. Now, I am not accusing anyone of anything, but I do know there are a lot of golf instructors near by that can help you and your buddies play better and of course, you are always welcome to visit the TOUR Academies for this guidance. For ways Travis can help your game, click here.
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