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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Smooth Swing of Adam Scott

If you ever needed proof that confidence makes a difference in your game, you need look no further than Adam Scott. Scott had all but disappeared from competition, even though he kept showing up at tournaments, until earlier this year. With his second win in 6 months, his confidence is back... and so is his game. Remember that -- keep your head straight if you want to play good golf, folks.

I think it's fair to make comparisons between Adam, Tiger -- who never had a swing this smooth and has never hit as many fairways as Scott -- and Steve Stricker, although Stricker rebuilt his swing to resurrect his game (and Tiger is on the same path). Adam never lost that sweet swing, even when he struggled, although it's not quite as good as Stricker's.

Nevertheless, let's check out the smooth motion that cruised to victory in Singapore this past weekend. First, here's a face-on view from taken back in June:

You can see the main difference between Scott, Woods, and Stricker here, and it has to do with head and shoulder movement. Woods and Stricker are the extremes, if you will -- Tiger's head and shoulders dip to start his downswing and Stricker stays rock steady throughout. Scott is in the middle; he dips his head like Tiger but -- and this is important -- Adam's head and shoulders don't dip until he is well down into his downswing. In this video, the movement becomes noticeable around the :16 mark, when his left arm is parallel to the ground. There's a little sideways movement toward the target as he starts down, and he moves back away from the target as he hits the ball, which should be expected. Here's a basic physical principle that happens in everybody's golf swing:
Any movement you make during your golf swing will create an equal and opposite movement to balance itself. If the movement is small, it will create a small opposite movement; if it's large, you'll look like a beached whale flopping around.
Well, maybe not but it'll be a big movement. I looked for some footage of Tiger from the JBWere this weekend and couldn't find any, but this is why Tiger is struggling so much. Tiger talks like this is a major swing rebuild while Foley says he's just tightening Tiger's swing; both are right. If you watched any of the JBWere, you would have noticed that Tiger's swing has a lot less movement, more like Stricker's. It feels like a rebuild to him because he's having to learn not to make about three different movements -- up-and-down, side-to-side, and keeping his heel flat on the ground longer in the downswing -- but Foley is really just taming some excess movement. I'll post some footage if I find it and show you.

But I digress...

Because Adam starts that downward move much later in the swing, he doesn't make such a big opposite move and it happens later in his swing, after the ball is gone. As a result he's a more accurate driver than Tiger (though not as good as Stricker, who doesn't have this excess movement at all).

For the most part, the rest of the commentary about Adam's swing could be a description of a Stricker swing -- arms and shoulders in sync (that's the one-piece takeaway I keep talking about, which is a result of coiling early in the swing rather than later) and he makes a deadhand swing (when the commentator says his hands and arms stop and start together, that's how a deadhand swing looks). You can see that he doesn't sway off the ball on the way back, so he doesn't move forward much on his downswing (that helps his accuracy as well; since his hips don't slide forward a lot, he's less likely to get tilted and have to flip his wrists to save the shot).

Also, Adam has a late wrist cock -- later than many players -- which is part of the reason he's about 10 yards longer than Stricker despite using the same deadhand swing that Stricker uses. (And before you ask -- yes, Tiger has a "later" wrist cock than Adam, which helps him hit it longer than Adam. If you guys are interested in why that happens, let me know and I'll do a post comparing pictures of the three at various points in their swings.)

Here's another clip -- also from June -- showing a down-the-line shot of a drive:

Again, you can see that Adam's swing is much more like Stricker's than Tiger's -- in fact, if not for the head and shoulder dip, Stricker and Scott's technique would look nearly identical from this angle.

So there you have it. Scott drives better than Woods because his technique is closer to Stricker's... but he's not as good as Stricker because he has that excess bobbing motion. That makes him more prone to timing problems than Stricker... and timing problems happen more often when you lose your confidence.

The moral of the story? Keep your swing simple and your mind clear... and a trip to Singapore (where Adam now has 3 wins) might not hurt either. Just don't take Kate Hudson with you; she seems to be a distraction.


  1. Great stuff, Mike, as always !

    When you talk about the similarities to Tiger's swing, are you talking about his more recent swing ? He studied Tiger's swing before moving to the US for college and to take up with Butch Harmon. For a couple of years, their swings were almost identical. Then Tiger changed. (maybe Tiger needs to study Scott's swing)

    Did you see the Foley interview on xxx Golf Channel yesterday ? He and Tiger were called "swing nerds" recently - Foley was wearing a button down shirt, pullover vest, and glasses in the interview. All he needed was a pocket protector to complete the look. :-D

  2. Except for near the end of the post where I specifically mentioned the changes Foley wants Tiger to make, I'm talking about Tiger's swing in general pre-Foley. I know Adam is supposed to have copied Tiger, but Adam has never had as much body movement as Tiger during his swing. The swings do look fairly similar, but I think Adam's has always been better from a technical standpoint.

    Tiger has played better than Adam because he's always been able to score better, which isn't necessarily a function of accuracy. For example, I went back to 2004 when both were playing well (Adam won the TPC and Booz Allen Classic that year) and their stats were almost identical... but Tiger had about a half putt less per round, and his stroke average was nearly a stroke less.

    I saw Foley's interview both times it aired yesterday. Foley sounds like he follows Butch's policy of trying to tailor his "solutions" to a player's existing swing. And while he said he was trying to get Tiger back to the way he swung when he was younger, it certainly looks to me as if he's trying to eliminate a lot of that excess movement Tiger has always had. If Stricker could swing 150mph, I think he might look the way Tiger did during those last 6 holes as the JBWere.

    After all these years, Tiger might finally learn how to drive it straight -- maybe not as straight as Fred Funk, but straight enough to give the other guys nightmares. ;-)

  3. Tiger's a much more intuitive golfer than Adam Scott, don't you think ? It seems natural that Scott's swing would be more mechanically sound than Tiger's since he did a lot of copying from Tiger's early days.

    I noticed that xxx Golf Channel started putting up video of Tiger's swing as an amateur. There is no way Tiger can get back to that swing - he's 25 pounds heavier and is musculature has completely changed. He's not that wirey kid who bends like a rubber band anymore. Just goes to show how little their production staff knows about golf.

    Personally, I think Tiger got himself over developed in the gym and got away from his big muscle swing that was a lot smoother, and started depending on the upper body too much.

    Remember the Memorial 2 years ago ? Tiger was just getting back from surgery and he drove the ball beautifully all week - and destroyed the field. By the time they got to the US Open, he was back to wailing away and couldn't buy a ball in the fairway.

    Half a putt a round - plus one stroke a round - that's 6 shots over 4 days. If the field is playing well, that's going to leave Adam Scott out of the top 10 on most weeks, and sometimes out of the top 20. And people wonder why it's so hard to win on the PGA Tour.

  4. I imagine that half-putt is included in the stroke per round, but that's still 4 shots per tournament... a big advantage.

    I don't think over-development caused the problem so much as the increased strength allowed him to drive his lower body harder while still maintaining some semblance of form. If you check his old swing footage (I looked at some on YouTube from 2000) Tiger didn't dip quite as much back then, although the dip is still very noticeable. He just wasn't strong enough to control the club if he drove his legs too hard back then.

    It looks to me like Foley is really trying to calm down that lower body and Tiger is struggling to get the timing down. If Foley succeeds, Tiger will have the advantage of all that upper body strength (for getting out of the rough) and add the ability to hit more fairways.

  5. Just because your lower body is quiet doesn't mean you're not going at it hard. That's a function of balance, woulddn't you say ?

    Yeah - where did that dip come from in the first place ? Taking lessons from Paula Creamer and Natalie Gulbis ? :-D

  6. No, but stronger forearms and torso allow you to go at it harder... which in Tiger's case means driving his legs harder. And you're right, the result is a loss of balance cause by the excess movement.

    The dip may actually have been a result of the teenage Tiger's weaker upper body. Watch some slo-mo and pay attention to his change of direction -- he dips first to start his downswing, while Adam starts his downswing then dips. Tiger doesn't need that dip now -- he's plenty strong -- but it's an ingrained move.

    If he and Foley are trying to get rid of it, that may be the toughest part of the job because I think it's his downswing trigger. Changing it will completely change the feel of his swing.

  7. I always saw that dip as coming from his legs. In the early days, he would "sit" into the downswing. During the Haney years, it looked more like he was dipping from the waist up. (even the magic Haney grip couldn't fix that)

    You know...that upper body dip really got pronoounced after Haney worked with Charles Barkley. You don't think...NNAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH ! (lol)

  8. The footage from 2000 that I looked at clearly showed a dip from the waist up. It just looks worse with Haney because the extra leg action is more noticeable. (That is, the horizontal motion in the Haney swing adds to the vertical motion. It's the shoulder coming around quicker that makes it look worse with Haney.)