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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How Manny Manhandles the ET

Matteo Manassero (known as "Manny" on the European Tour) turns 18 today. He celebrated this past weekend by nailing his 2nd win on the ET in less than a year. Manny jumped from #57 in the world last week -- you'll recall that he didn't make the Masters field because he wasn't #50 or better -- up to #33. If he can stay in the Top 50 for another 5 weeks, he'll qualify for the remaining 3 majors of 2011.

I suspect a lot of players aren't particularly thrilled with that thought. Manny seems to understand how to close out a tournament when he has the chance.

It's pretty easy to understand why when you look at his stats. By now you've heard that he's a little short off the tee but very accurate with his irons. Here are his stats from europeantour.com:

Category 2010 2011
Stroke Average 70.41 70
Driving Accuracy 72.66% 70.41%
Driving Distance 271.24 yds 273.21 yds
Greens In Regulation 72.33% 78.17%
Average Putts Per Round 29.62 29.64
Putts Per GIR 1.76 1.74


Although Manny is 6' tall like Jim Furyk, he doesn't really hit it any further than Furyk. But he's a good putter and -- most importantly -- check out that GIR. He hit over 72% of his greens in his first year on Tour, and this year he's up to 78%! Most weeks you're going to devastate the field with that kind of accuracy. Does Manny really need to be longer when he's already hitting more greens than the big hitters?

Here's a swing analysis video from the European website PurpleGolf.com. I'm going to focus on the slo-mo footage at the very beginning, but the video goes into a lot of detail for those of you who are interested.



Note a couple of things about Manny's swing. Granted, this is an iron swing so it's shorter than his driver swing, but he's still close to parallel with his club so I know I'm right about this. Manny's backswing is relatively short with a lot of wrist cock at the top. The shorter swing gives him a lot of control, while the wrist cock gives him quite a bit of power. He doesn't keep a lot of that wrist cock; if you watch, when his left arm is parallel to the ground on the downswing, it basically forms a 90° angle with the club shaft. That's not a lot by modern standards, but it's certainly plenty in Manny's case.

Combined with this shorter backswing is the fact that he keeps his hands in front of him during the swing. This is actually stressed later in the video, and it means that if you drew a line across his chest and then drew a line perpendicular to it from the middle of his chest, his hands stay pretty much right there until he reaches the top of his backswing. At that point, his hands move to a point just outside his shoulders, but they return to a point inside his shoulders by the time his left arm is parallel to the ground on the downswing. From this position it's much easier to square up the club at impact. That's how you avoid getting stuck and hitting a big slice.

Add this to his good balance throughout his swing and you've got the ingredients for decimating the field despite still being a teen.

Manny's on the verge of breaking into my Ruthless Golf World Rankings, but the guys who are ahead of him all have majors, WGCs, or a prestige event like Riviera. But at the rate this kid's going, he may worm his way in by June...

Just in time for the U.S. Open, a major where accuracy is worth way more than length off the tee. That should make the rest of the field really nervous.

4 comments:

  1. Tight - compact - balanced....reeks of...you guessed it...my favorite - Butch Harmon ! :-D

    It'll be interesting to see if he's done growing or if he fills out - see if he picks up "bomber" distance.

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  2. He'll definitely get a little stronger as he nears 20. Over the next 2 or 3 years I suspect he'll be able to pick up maybe another 10 yards without changing his motion. That would put him in Steve Stricker territory -- plenty long enough to go after #1!

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  3. Now you're bringing in another really fun thing to watch - whether this young guy, who is fearless like most 18 year olds, will be able to develop mental toughness that will last a lot of years, or if he's just another kid on a hot streak.

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  4. He's already proven he's got the mental toughness, although I think it's more a matter of having perspective. He enjoys the competition, but it doesn't seem to mean everything to him the way it does to some of the others. If he retains that "light grasp" on fame, I think the sky's the limit for him.

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