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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Charlie Hoffman's Swing

Charlie Hoffman, the #3 guy in the FedExCup race, is a real puzzle. He is, depending on who you listen to, the best argument "for" or "against" the current point system. He's had a few decent finishes this year, yet most of his play has been forgettable. Then again, there's that dominating 62 he shot at the Deutsche Bank to obliterate the field. Does he deserve to be #3 or not? That question will be debated for some time.

Most of the commentators I've heard are confused by his seeming inability to break away from the pack and become a dominant player on Tour. And if you pop over to Charlie's stat page at PGATOUR.com and take a look at his "standard stats" listed at the top, you might be confused as well.

To be honest, they look pretty good overall. It's easy to see why Charlie should be a factor in almost every event where he tees it up.

It's hard to find footage of Charlie's swing. I found this SwingVision analysis from Peter Kostis, but YouTube won't allow me to embed it; you'll have to click the link to go see it. Kostis credits Charlie's driving to a stable head position; I wouldn't argue that but, if you get too caught up trying to keep your head still, you can create other problems in your swing. I would focus more on the fact that Charlie's entire upper body stays relatively stable, which Kostis does allude to when he mentions that "his spine angle has stayed in perfect position."

If you view that video, I'd also like you to notice that Charlie has the one-piece takeaway I've been harping on so much lately, because that means Charlie is coiling his shoulders early in the backswing. This develops a lot of power and makes it less likely that he'll make errors later during the swing. If you do things right when you start the swing, you're much more likely to finish it well.

Besides the Kostis video, the best I could find was this one by instructor Wayne DeFrancesco (his website is here):



DeFrancesco points out some comparisons between Hoffman and the Hogan drill I included at the end of yesterday's post, as well as pointing out that Charlie's head does move as he strikes the ball. (While Peter Kostis doesn't teach a rigidly-still head during the swing, many players seem to miss that; I was glad to see it pointed out here.) Personally, I think DeFrancesco's analysis may be overkill for most weekend players, but I like the amount of slo-mo footage he included. Again, Charlie's stability is the biggest thing I'd like you take away from this.

Just for the record, I suspect Charlie's problems can be traced to a few harmful stats:
  • His scoring average after the cut is about one stroke higher than his scoring before the cut; that may get you a weekly payday (which isn't a small thing by any stretch of the imagination!) but it isn't going to get you in contention very often.
  • His scrambling percentage from outside 30 yards is only 24.49% -- less than 1 in 4. That's NOT good.
  • And his putting, despite being ranked 14th overall, is suspect. He makes only 54.84% of his putts between 5 and 10 feet, and only 30.16% between 10 and 15 feet. In other words, on putts between 5 and 15 feet, he could probably score better if he just flipped a coin -- heads he makes it, tails he doesn't. That's bad for a Tour player.
These are the kind of things that keep a guy off the Ryder Cup team. But he's still an explosive player, capable of winning on any week when the stars align. I don't expect him to win the Tour Championship... but I didn't expect him to win the Deutsche Bank either!

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