Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pink Panther Progress

I was checking out some of the info on this week's LPGA tournament, the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic, and ran across an interesting article on Paula Creamer. Everybody knows that Paula's been dealing with some personal issues -- injury as well as the death of her grandfather -- but this article added some new information.

Paula hitting driver

I knew Paula had been working on her swing for some time, trying to minimize the "head dip" she makes during her downswing. I didn't know that she had been doing some other changes as well. Since the info might help some of you, I'm quoting it here. Note the parts I've bolded:
Implementing the swing changes with coach David Whelan has also been a difficult adjustment to make. Creamer said they’re working on tightening her swing with her irons and doing a near overhaul to her driver swing, which was costing her distance off the tee.
“I tend to get flat and hit it on the way down and not on the way up,” said Creamer, who ranked 113th at 241 yards per drive in 2011. “I’ve really been trying to get some (added) distance with that. I feel like, because I’m 5-9 and a pretty strong girl, I should be able to hit it a lot farther than I do. I have a lot of wasted energy in my golf swing, and I’m just trying to be a little bit more efficient with it.
“That’s why I’m such a good iron player – I hit the ball on the way down and am consistent with that. But I lose 15-25 yards with the driver. You want to hit it on the way up, and that’s something I’ve never done. I’m trying to do it, but it’s such a big change.”
The mental aspect of making changes to her swing has perhaps been even tougher than the physical.
“Golf is a crazy game, that’s for sure, and I’m trying to get better by making swing changes,” said Creamer, who is 10th in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings. “I know something worked so well (in the past), and it’s hard to get away from that. But, in reality, this is what’s going to help me and hopefully take me to the next level.”
The fact that Creamer is having some success with the swing changes as a part of her game has helped her believe it is the right decision for the long run.
“I’m not going to get away from my strengths, which is hitting fairways and hitting greens,” said Creamer, who has earned nearly $9 million in her career. “It’s a very fine line. It’s hard, and it’s frustrating. But at the same time, when it’s good, it’s so good that it makes you want to keep doing it and trying.”
She's clearly working on several things at once -- not something I'd recommend to a weekend player -- but she's right. She's tall for an LPGA player and she should be driving the ball further. Note what she says: One of the big keys for hitting a driver long is that you've got to hit up on the ball when it's on a tee, not down as you do when the ball is on the ground. That's why it's on a tee, after all!

But also note the reason she says she's having trouble making the change: “I know something worked so well (in the past), and it’s hard to get away from that." The fact is, even if something hasn't worked particularly well for us in the past, it can be hard to make a change. We're all pretty comfortable with what we do, even when it's not in our best interests. (That's true in more than just golf, of course.) We just have to tough it out and make the change.

And in Paula's case it's working. That 241-yard average from 2011 is up to 250 so far this year, and hitting it 260 isn't an unreal expectation for her. (Remember, she's 5' 9" tall. Stacy Lewis is 5' 5" and averages 262; Yani Tseng is 5' 6" and averages 275.) It'll be interesting to see if it helps her at Mobile Bay this week. At 6,521 yards, her 250-yard drives should put her in good position on most of the holes.

Don't forget that GC begins coverage tomorrow at 12:30pm ET.

The photo is from the article at LPGA.com.

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