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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Looking at Danny Willet's Swing

With Danny Willett just a stroke off the lead at the Open when Friday's play ended, many of you may be wondering about his swing -- especially after Brandel Chamblee remarked that his "bullet cut" might give him an advantage in the right-to-left winds they expect this weekend.

Well, wonder no more. After looking at several videos of Danny, I settled on these two. The first shows Danny at the WGC-Match Play earlier this year. Note from the shot tracker "trails" that Danny hits a draw as easily as he hits a cut. These swings are all at full speed.

Then I found this video that's about a year old but shows his swing in slo-mo.

A few things I noticed right off:
  • Danny's swing is actually pretty short -- his hands are just a bit above shoulder height even with a driver -- and he doesn't get a lot of "width," which is a fancy way to say that he doesn't get his hands as far away from his body during the backswing as he could. This shows up in his stats -- although he's 6' tall, his ET regular season driving average is only 290 yards and he hits only 56% of his fairways. He does hit 71% of his GIR, which means his iron play is pretty accurate.
  • He sets up with his weight more on his lead side and moves aggressively toward the target when he hits the ball. Perhaps because of this aggressive attack, he cocks his wrists early in his backswing -- a late wrist cock would require a slower backswing in order to keep control of the club.
  • Danny also "re-routes" the club when he changes direction at the top of his backswing -- in other words, he drops the club a bit behind him (which some folks call "laying it off"). This move flattens his swing a little, which helps him unwind a bit faster but sacrifices a little accuracy. Rickie Fowler did this until Butch helped him reduce it.
  • His finish is a lot higher than his backswing, which causes him to swing a bit in-to-out. That's not something most teachers would teach but it's not necessarily a bad thing. It lets him really extend his arms as he hits the ball, which helps him control the club face better than he would otherwise with all that body rotation.
Danny normally hits the ball about as far as Jordan Spieth does, but Danny's lower ball flight seems to be helping him much more in the windy conditions at St. Andrews. (According to the Open website stats, which measures drives on holes 5 and 14, Danny's averaging 318 VS Jordan's 260.) And Danny's -3 on the back nine -- the nine playing into the wind -- after two rounds.

Which just goes to show that the "right" way to hit the ball isn't necessarily the best way for any individual golfer. Danny Willett was the #1 amateur in the world in 2008... and if he keeps playing like this, he could end up being the Champion Golfer of 2015.

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