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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ai Miyazato's Golf Swing

While it's a bit unusual for me to look at the swings of specific players for two days in a row, I think this stretch of majors we're in makes it worth taking a look at some of the unlikely contenders who are making their marks on the game. I say "unlikely" because most of these players are not the big powerful dominators we expect to see. Gregory Havret earned a look yesterday by virtue of his 2nd at Pebble.

Today we're taking a look at the new world #1 on the LPGA Tour, Ai Miyazato.

The Constructivist over at Mostly Harmless wrote a post called "Pathways to Success" where he divided the women players into 3 groups. TC labels these groups as bombers, straight shooters, and precision players. Ai is a precision player, whom TC categorizes as a player who averages under 255 yards and hits the fairway over 75% of the time. According to the sparse stats posted at LPGA.com, Ai averages just under 244 yards (not bad for a smallish 5'2" powerhouse) with a 77% accuracy rate. (For comparison, former #1 Jiyai Shin is only one inch shorter, but hits it over 10 yards shorter. Ai's pretty long for her size.) The fact that she hits only 60% GIR but is still T9 for Total Birdies (107 in only 9 tournaments / 7 made cuts) tells you just how important her Driving Accuracy is.

As with most things LPGA, good footage of Ai hitting shots is not readily available. We'll have to make do with some paltry pickin's. First, here's a face-on shot from Singapore in 2009:



Ai, like Havret, has a very rhythmic swing. And she doesn't move much from side-to-side or up-and-down during her swing -- again, like Havret. This is a big part of her accuracy and her consistency.

Now here's a much older piece from 2007 (watch fast -- it's short!) showing her shot down-the-line:



What stands out most from this angle is how upright her swing is. Both she and Havret finish high, but Ai is high on the backswing as well. (Say that five times fast!) An upright backswing tends to develop more power because it utilizes the back muscles in the swing, and I'm sure she got that swing from the old "reach for the sky" idea that Nicklaus followed during his heyday.*

When I watch Ai swing, what really impresses me (like most of the swings I post videos of) is how simple it is. Ai's hip movement to start her downswing is a little more violent than, say, Gregory Havret's, but Ai is much smaller and is trying to generate some extra distance. Nevertheless, that little "jump" doesn't upset the smooth rhythm of her swing; she doesn't jerk the club when she starts down, and she doesn't contort her body and tilt her swing plane. There's a lot to be learned here, even if you're a 200-lb guy struggling to hit the fairway. She's won 4 LPGA tournaments in 9 starts this year -- if you're looking for a good model to pattern your swing after, I'd say she's a pretty good one!

*For those of you who don't know the story, after a winless 1979, Jack's teacher Jack Grout noticed that Nicklaus had gotten too upright and lost some of his ability to get that big coil that gave him so much power. Together they flattened his swing considerably, and he won the 1980 PGA Championship as a result. He won only three more times on the PGA Tour after that (the last, of course, being the 1986 Masters), and I think it's because they made his swing a little too flat. When you change your swing that much (that plane change was very visible), you change the feel of your swing... and your consistency tends to leave when you do. That's just my opinion, of course, but that's why I generally don't recommend big swing changes unless your swing is just hopeless.

3 comments:

  1. (Scratching my head...) That just doesn't look like the swing of the #1 player on the LPGA Tour.

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  2. Ironically, her struggles when she first came over here happened because she tried to change her swing to play more of a power game. She finally changed it back, and now she says she has confidence in it again.

    Remember, it's consistency and repeatability that make a golf champion. Just think about Lee Trevino!

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  3. Just imagine how far she would hit it if she wasn't a midget ! (JUST kidding) :-)

    I'm always amazed that she doesn't jerk herself off balance or out of sync with that hip motion. Like you said, if you can repeat it, you can play it.

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