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Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Mechanic Makes Another Run

He's gotten more attention for his warm-up on the practice range during the Open Championship than for his game, but Miguel Angel Jimenez can play some golf. Last year he won 3 times on the European Tour. While he hasn't won this year, he has 3 Top5s so far. And he's still #49 in the OWGR and #16 in the Race to Dubai, despite a rough second half of the season.

This week he's one of only 4 players under par at the Andalucia Masters, played at the infamous Club de Golf Valderrama of Ryder Cup fame.

How does this 48-year-old manage to compete against the youngsters on the European Tour? A quick look at his swing may encourage those of you who feel that your swing isn't good enough for you to score well:

This certainly isn't the kind of swing you'd teach your kids! But I want you to see how he's turned a "flawed" swing into a threat at any venue.

MAJ has an ok one-piece takeaway. His right elbow starts to bend around the time his hands are at hip-pocket height. I'd like to see him get a little higher before it bends, but he still gets his shoulders turning early in the swing. That's the most important thing.

He has a very "connected" swing, almost to a fault. His upper arms stay so close to his chest throughout his swing that he swings very flat. If you look at the top of his backswing -- around the :19 mark -- his upper arm is very close to his side. Most teachers would call this a fault, and it would make most players end up with a short swing.

But look at his left knee at the same position. Boy, has that baby moved back behind the ball -- he's up on the toes of his left foot! But doing that lets him finish his backswing. He gets a huge shoulder turn, even with that flat swing.

As he starts down, his right arm moves away from his chest slightly, but not a lot. This is because of his hips moving toward the target. He's not "sliding" his hips, he's just replanting his left heel on the ground. This gives him a good start unwinding from the top.

And this is where his connection pays off. His right arm moves back down close to his side. He actually has a fairly steep swing plane despite his flat swing! This lets him catch the ball crisply and solidly. He doesn't stick his elbow into his side, but swings it past his hip as he straightens it late in the swing. He carries a lot of wrist cock down into the hitting area.

Then he just lets his body unwind into a full finish with his back straight. No back pain for MAJ!

All these things allow him to hit his driver around 280 yards, which is pretty typical for most 6' players who live in the gym. MAJ is only 5'10", just a player of standard height who clearly doesn't let his workouts get in the way of a good meal, a cigar, and a bottle of wine. ;-)

Nobody says you have to have a textbook swing to play good golf. Despite his unorthodox swing, Miguel has a chance this week to become the first Spanish winner at the Andalucia Masters. The ET commentators noted that, of all the players on Tour, he probably enjoys the game more than anybody else. I suspect that has as much to do with his success as anything.

Take a lesson from the Mechanic. A car doesn't have to be pretty to run well, and a golf swing doesn't have to be perfect to perform well either.


  1. IMO, flaws are in the eye of the viewer. If he was your student after winning as much as he has, would you really try to change anything?


  2. I phrased that improperly-- would you have changed much if you were working with him as a younger man?


  3. Not a thing, bent. I have 3 criteria for a swing:

    1) Is it predictable? (If you don't know where it's going, it's no good.)

    2) Is it repeatable? (Just because you knew where that one was going doesn't mean you can do again.)

    3) Does it hurt? (Needless to say, the game shouldn't hurt.)

    If it fits those three criteria, I say it's a good swing. MAJ's swing certainly seems to fill the bill on all three. ;-)