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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Some Love for Masters First-Timer Jason Day

Why, you may wonder, am I not looking at the swing of Charl Schwartzel, the newest Masters champion? The answer is simple: I already did! Back in January I did this look at Schwartzel's swing right after he defended his Joberg Open title. I was ahead of the curve!

Instead, I'm going to look at Jason Day's swing. You can make a decent argument that Jason played the best of anyone in the field, given that he was playing the Masters for the first time. (You can't give him the title, of course... but you can make the argument.)

Here's a swing analysis from professional Dan Whittaker, done after the second round at the Masters. (Talk about timely!) I'm just going to look at a couple of points for this post, but feel free to learn everything you can from his entire analysis. ;-)

I've lifted a couple of frames from the video. The positions on the left side are from Jason's win at the 2010 HP Byron Nelson, and the ones on the right are from his second shot on 18 at the Masters last Friday. The little yellow lines on the bottom pics were drawn by Dan Whittaker; you can ignore them in terms of what I'm saying, but I added the two vertical black lines.

Jason Day -- swing positions

There are two things I want to point out, one thing that's different and one thing that's the same.

The difference? Last year Jason was standing taller with his weight more back on his heels. This year he's taken a more athletic stance -- which means he has a bit more knee bend and leans slightly more forward from his waist -- which puts his weight more over the balls of his feet. This lets him keep his balance more easily and swing a bit more freely. Just compare the two swings -- which looks like it will send the ball farther to you?

So what stayed the same? Jason still keeps the club "in front of him." That's the reason he played so well in the past despite being a bit too much on his heels. I'm sure many of you get confused by that statement, so here's a good chance to understand it.

See those vertical black lines I drew through Jason's hands? See how they are just barely outside his right shoulder at the top of the swing? That means his hands are "in front of him." If they were farther behind his shoulder, he would be more in danger of getting stuck. (Note to self: Do a post with a "keeping your hands in front of you" drill.)

For comparison look at Tiger, who's notorious for getting stuck. He has traditionally had his hands much further behind him at the top. If you look at footage of his new swing with Foley (yes, there's some up on YouTube) you'll see that his hand position and posture now look more like Day's. Woods is on a flatter plane than Day but he's leaning more forward, which has the effect of making him carry his hands higher and putting them "closer" to his shoulder.

Now back to Day. If you compare where Jason's hands are relative to his feet (look at the black lines) you'll see that his hands are also more over the balls of his feet at the top of his backswing. In other words, they aren't behind him. All of his motion goes into hitting the ball, not trying to get his hands around his body.

These are the two things I think you can learn from Jason Day -- take a more athletic posture at address and keep your hands more "in front of you." Rather than trying to stretch your hands back behind you, focus on turning your shoulders more fully. That will give you more power with less stress.

Just look what it did for Jason. Not bad for a Masters virgin.... not bad at all.

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