Currently there are thousands of experts out there telling anyone that will listen what’s wrong with Tiger Woods' swing. The commentary is justified though by his performance in majors since 2008 and his continual pattern of injuries.
Leading this charge is USA Golf Commentator Brandel Chamblee (winner of the stating the obvious award 2014) who has a lot to say, but not much to offer.
What frustrates me as a coach, with much of the commentary around what is happening with Tiger, is that these "Experts" (the term is used loosely) that show you a still image of Tiger in early 2000 and then of now are just playing “Spot the Difference”. Saying ...See, he has too much lean on his shaft! Or the club is stuck! Or even worse, Trackman says he is to down on the ball !!!!
Playing "Spot the Difference" does not make you an “Expert” or does it make your commentary constructive nor can a club golfer learn anything from it. So what’s the point of it?
Explaining to a student, as an example, that they are finishing with their weight on their back foot(which they already know) and telling them that they need to get through the ball and get their weight forward is level 1 coaching. You are simply telling them what you see and what good players do and this is what most of the commentary about Tiger Woods revolves around and it doesn't help anyone.
I currently see golf coaching occurring at 4 levels
* Level 1 Coach/ Typical Commentator - What is happening and what you should be/were doing. This is Brandel Chamblee
* Level 2 Coach - What is happening, why it is happening and what you should be doing. This coach uses lots of drills to retrain the body, over loads you with technology and loves an impact bag. It is a slow, hard way to learn!
* Level 3 Coach – What is happening, why it is happening, what you should be doing, and the concept changerequired to fix it. Not a drill that lessens the effects of the problem, a concept change which changes the motion immediately.
* Level 4 Coach – all of the above as well as can communicate the message in a way that each person he/she teaches understands, enabling a change in ball flight and a fix to the problem in the first lesson. Then drills and technology can be most effectively utilised !
So this being said, what would I do to fix Tiger Woods in one lesson? Well here goes…!
To understand why Tiger is struggling as a Level 1 “Spot the difference” coach/commentator, see the above picture. There are three key things to point out.
* The yellow line – the club shaft in relation to the right forearm on the downswing
* The blue circle – the right elbow in relation to the right hip
* The green line - the left arm angle away from vertically down
This picture shows what everyone knows, that Tiger is stuck and cannot get through the ball from his pre impact position. To make things worse, Tiger has been taught to cover the ball with his chest to try and stop arching back through the impact zone. This move creates a high hand position at impact and results in him flipping the hands as a reaction to feeling like he is going to hit it way right, subsequently resulting in hooks left (The Big Miss). Simple!
Knowing this does not make me an expert, nor does Brandel saying that his driver launch angle on trackman was that number and now it is this number. Highlighting this stuff is like saying the wind is off the right. Knowing what to do with the wind off the right is what is most relevant and what you as a club golfer can learn from.
So why is this happening (Level 2 coach) ? To understand why, we need to look at Tigers history. Tiger has always had fast hips from the top causing his club to get stuck behind him. In 2002 whilst working with Butch Harmon and dominating world golf like no one before him, Tiger realised how to keep his body rotation and arm swing in sync.
From the top, he felt like his body was doing nothing and that his arms where swinging first and trying to beat his hips to the ball.(These are his words spoken at the 5min mark of the video) This you tube video (clcik link below) with Butch explains the difference between what you saw Tiger do and what he feels like he does to create this. Very interesting viewing considering where he is currently at.
So why leave Butch Harmon when you are dominating golf like no one before you???
Because, his tendency was so strong to start with a violent early hip action that he always battled getting stuck and the feeling that he could hook it left under pressure was still there.
So rather than trying to improve his margins and become a better player by building heightened awareness of this motion (many would say this was the best he ever swung the club) he moved to Hank Haney who modified his teaching style to accommodate Tigers desires. To not miss left!
In 2000 I attended a Hank Haney teach the teacher seminar in Dallas and Hank explained his move through the ball into finish as being a releasing one. With Tiger though, he modified this to become a holding move. This holding move became very noticeable in Tigers swing and also relevant in the consistency he was able to play with as he took the left side of the golf course out of play.
The problem which this holding motion of the club with the body and arms (apart from how much pressure it puts on you left side) is it created an inability to hit driver straight enough at the level he was playing at. Tiger managed his ball around the course and because of this was not as dominant in his best performances, but was more consistent overall.
These inabilities to hit the driver straight enough, but still perform at the level he did, encouraged Tiger to search for a better way. A way to become a better player, the thing that has always driven him.
This took him to Sean Foley who obviously explained in a convincing way how he believed Tiger needed to swing the club in order to be able to drive the ball better.
All Sean Foley would have had to say to Tiger was "I can teach you how to swing the driver, hitting it further, straighter and not missing left”. Tiger would have taken the bait like John Daly to a donut as this feeling of being stuck and flipping the hands has haunted him his whole career and the desire to move away from this feeling is fueling that searching desire.
Now with Sean Foley (officially since 2010) Tiger finds himself on the end of a 0 from his last 23 major’s record, having previously been 14 from 42. What he is doing is obviously not working as he is hitting some of the worse shots I have ever seen Tiger hit. He is missing his wedge targets regularly by as much as 50 feet and is making more swings where the club ends up in one hand or even worse on the ground than your local bad tempered, misunderstood 14 year old going through puberty.
So why is this happening? even though Sean Foley (who i met at the 2010 British Open) is one of the most successful coaches the world has today?
The reason is illustrated in the above picture and it is that in Tigers desire to not feel stuck and to not flip the handshe is getting the right elbow in front of the right hip way too early in the downswing. See the Blue circle position of Tiger compared to Rory. This causes the left forearm to get away from the body leading into impact (Green line) and from the position Sean Foley teaches his players to be in with their head/chest covering the ball, Tiger has no choice but to rock back on it to hit it causing the exact feeling that he is trying to eliminate.
I wrote an article published in "Inside Golf" earlier this year(March) that explained why Tiger cannot perform now when it matters and what you can learn from this. It was a risky article as Tiger did win 5 times on the PGA Tour in 2013 and was talking up his chances in 2014 with all 4 majors being played at courses he had won at before. Tiger has always relied on his processes (SOP) and more in particular his swing sequence process. Why he is not performing now is that the very process he is going through is creating the feeling and result he is trying to get away from. To read my article click on the link.
So why is his right elbow in front of his hip so early (so vividly shown in the above image) ? Because that's what Sean Foley Teaches, Rotate in one piece in the backswing (a la Hunter Mahans towel under the arms), get the arms in front of your body whilst you cover the ball with your chest on the downswing, swinging the arms left through impact.
I would like to premise these comments and any that come after it by saying it is easy to sit back as a so called expert, a computer number cruncher or even a coach and say here is what you should be doing or this is what I want you to do. Having spent much time with tour players between 2007 and 2010 the unexpected hurdle that you have to deal with is their ego. That is, what they think they need and what they are willing to work on. Hank Haney quoted Tiger in his book, "The Big Miss” saying "I only work on a percentage of the things that Hank tells me".
So what to do to fix it??? Tiger needs to look at the swing image above and realise that what he is working on doing he has achieved. He has his arms in front of his body, only way too early! This causes steepness (yellow line in relation to right forearm) and the feeling of being stuck (Green line in relation to left arm) causing him to flip the hands and hook the ball.
To get Tiger on track with his swing and take the pressure off his body from being stuck, Sean Foley needs to realise this is a problem and that there is a glitch in his system of thinking. He needs to modify what he teaches to get Tiger to understand the concept change required to get him back in sync . To play better Tiger needs to be in the position Rory is in above or as a Scratch player i teach (who previously played off 12) is in below. This players generates a 120 mph swing speed and doesn't hook or miss left. Not only is he in the position to achieve this on the downswing but i have taught him the "secret move". The move that if i could show Tiger would trasnform him overnight (once his body is back to normal) to the player he was.
My thinking regardng Sean Foley is he is probably having too much success currently to think this way about the situation and he is too close to it all to see the obvious easy fix that is there in front of him.
In my opinion Sean Foley is too wrapped up in coaching a method rather than teaching a player and Tigers performances since joining Foley in majors and the injuries he has had recently consolidate this comment and suggest that this relationship can only end in tears.
This is the key position! In order to be able to hit your driver the longest and the straightest you are capable of hitting it. From here you need to simply learn the secret move and your driver will perform like it never has before. For a more detailed understanding tweet me @consistentgolf or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
I know that in one day of working with Tiger i could get him hitting shots with the driver exactly the way he wants to hit them, believe it or not?? Well give me the chance Tiger and I will prove it to you. (a Level 4 coach fixes the problem through understanding and concept change allowing immediate ball flight and feel improvement). Then and only then can drills and technology help refine and stabilise the movement.
This is what i teach and I know that i can get you there in one day if given the opportunity.
Tiger, you are the most athletic player to play the game and the only player in history to noticeably change their swing three times and keep winning on the PGA tour.
Please don’t let your stubbornness in thinking, “I can make this work”! Stop you from seeing the obviousness of this all. It shouldn't be taking you this long.
To book a lesson please tweet me @consistentgolf or email email@example.com
p.s I am unavailable between October 7th - 18th 2014 for the birth of my 2nd child