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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rock Solid

Robert Rock didn't even show up on most golf fans' radar until he got his first win at the 2010 Italian Open. That win got him into the U.S. Open the very next week and he rushed to get over here. It cost him around $24k to get the appropriate visa and another $1k for a very long taxi ride from Newark NJ to Washington DC. Not only did he shoot a 70 after getting virtually no sleep, but he made the cut and finished in 23rd place.

It was his efforts, which showed his appreciation for the chance to play, that made him a minor star here in the States. His 2nd win this past weekend, beating most of the world's best, jumped him to #55 on the OWGR and probably guaranteed that he'll be on everybody's radar from here on out.

Let's take a quick look at the swing that took down Woods and McIlroy. Because Robert's a fairly typical 5'10" tall -- a bit unusual in this age of giants -- there's a good chance most of you can learn something from him. And I find his swing to be very interesting.

First, here's a video showing both face-on and down-the-line views of Robert hitting a 7-iron:

Robert has a reputation for being extremely involved in the technical aspects of the golf swing. That in itself is very interesting because his swing is so simple and smooth that you'd never know it! There's a tip that all of you can take to heart: If you're trying to make a swing that confuses you or seems too complex, you may need to reassess whether it's the right swing for you. Your swing concept should be very simple and easy to understand. You want to focus on where the ball is going, not what you have to do to make it go there.

As far as the technicals go, the main thing Robert does differently from what I normally like to see is his early wrist cock, which just means that his wrists are almost fully cocked by the time his hands reach waist high in his backswing. That, in turn, simply means that his right elbow bends earlier in his swing than I try to get you to do. Let me be perfectly clear that there's nothing wrong with an early wrist cock/early elbow bend. I've just found that when players have trouble with an over-the-top swing, they tend to bend that elbow early because they twist their forearms, which makes the OTT move worse. Clearly Robert's not having that problem!

Otherwise his swing looks pretty much the way I've been suggesting for all of you. Note that Robert sets up with his hands over or just in front of the ball as I recommend. In doing this, he gets the shaft pretty much in line with his left forearm. That's the position it will be in when he actually hits the ball.

He starts his backswing by turning his shoulders, not just bending his elbow and lifting his hands, and you can see on the down-the-line view that his forearms don't twist during his swing. (If he did, the shaft would lean over, more parallel to the ground.) He simply lets the bending of his elbow and cocking of his wrists combine with the turning of his shoulders to create his swing plane.

In addition, his triceps and chest stay "connected" almost all the way through his swing, and there's no excess hip slide -- that is, his right hip doesn't move backward over his right foot on the backswing and his left hip doesn't slide past his left hip on the downswing. His body stays pretty much centered between his heels. This is a very simple move that makes you much more accurate because it stops you from leaning too much one way or the other.

Now here's a face-on view of him hitting a driver:

Note that the ball is more forward in his stance, but the shaft still forms a straight line with his left forearm. Except for the ball position, the mechanics of his driver swing are almost identical to his short iron swing. This is what I find most interesting about Robert's swing. The swing is longer -- that's because the longer shaft gets him standing a bit taller, making it easier to turn -- but otherwise the swings look the same. He doesn't try to swing faster or harder with the driver.

If a pro who's known to be a mechanics freak can end up with a swing this simple, shouldn't you do the same?

American fans will probably get to see this swing more often this summer. Robert was already trying to get into the Pebble Beach tournament in a few weeks, and he's positioned to make the Accenture and maybe even the Masters. If you get the chance to watch him, you definitely should.

A Rock solid swing isn't beyond anybody's reach.

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