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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Swing Thought for Tiger

Hi, Tiger. It's just me, but I've got a suggestion for you.

Look, I know you have access to all those big-name teachers, so you don't see any need to take advice from a blogger like me. In addition, it seems like every sports analyst on the planet is positive he or she knows exactly what you need to do... and they keep broadcasting it, day after day after interminable day. You must be getting really tired of hearing everybody else's opinion.

But here's the deal: I'm not bucking to become your next teacher, so you don't have to worry about a sales pitch. All I want to suggest is a swing thought. If you'll just give me five minutes, I think I can make it worth your while.

Frustrated Tiger -- Sam Greenwood/Getty Images from ESPNI know it's been a tough year for you. We both know you brought a lot of it on yourself, so we won't belabor that. But as I see it, much of your problem is simply that you've never had to deal with a situation like this before. I heard you say your swing "behaved badly" for a while when you rebuilt it with Butch all those years ago... but you were the Golden Boy then, incapable of doing anything wrong and in a very different place mentally. Back then everybody loved you, and quite frankly you aren't used to being at the bottom of the barrel the way we "normal folk" are at some time or another. You have no experience dealing with crap that just won't go away.

Let me give you a tip here, from someone who's faced tough times before: This is a bad time to start deconstructing your swing. It's too much work when you're struggling just to make it from one day to the next. What you need to remember is this one simple truth:

You already know how to swing, Tiger. You've been doing it better than anyone else for over a decade now. You've just forgotten what your good swing feels like. You say you're getting stuck. Well, you might not realize it, but that's a pretty common problem among golfers, even duffers. You used to swing without getting stuck, remember?

Of course you don't. That's the problem.

So I'd like to offer one swing thought to help you remember the good old days. I recommend it to weekend golfers who are getting stuck, and it's something you can try without any great investment of time or effort. Will you give it a try?

On your downswing, try to start your upper body and lower body at the same time. That's it. Nothing complicated, but it's an easy way to recreate the feel of not being stuck whenever you need to remember what a synched-up swing feels like.

I did a post last week with some slo-mo footage of Bernhard Langer, showing how he does the same thing. You can check it out if you want.

Here's why I think it will help:

When you get stuck, it's generally because your lower body gets way ahead of your hands. You drive your hips so hard, it's easy to see how that happens. But it also makes you lean a bit, causing that "dropping down" you talked about.

No matter what you do, your lower body always starts your downswing; it's physiologically impossible to hit the ball any other way. But if you try to feel as if you're starting your hips and shoulders together, you'll keep your hips from getting too far ahead and tilting your spine, so you'll stop dropping so much. You'll keep your hips more "under you" while still being able to clear them as fast as you want, and you'll stay more balanced. If you watch the front-view video of Langer's swing on that post from last week, you can see how it works for him.

Granted, some players find a way to get stuck on purpose. Ben Hogan designed his swing so that, unless he did it perfectly, he would get stuck. He'd end up leaning backward and pushing the shot to the right... and his weak grip prevented him from flipping his hands and hitting a duck hook. But unless you're going to go to a really weak grip, you don't want to do that.

If you try a few swings this way, it will help you remember how it feels when you don't get stuck... and soon you'll start to remember your natural swing, the one you won with for so long. Then you can just start playing with that feel again. You shouldn't make any major swing changes until you've got your natural rhythm back.

I know it sounds dreadfully simple, and you're tempted to believe it can't work. Just give it a chance. It won't cost you anything but a few minutes on the range. You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Think about it, okay? We golf fans really want to see the Big Cat back on form. And maybe, just maybe, once you start enjoying the game again, that joy will help you deal with all the other crap in your life.


  1. Come on Mike - don't downplay yourself so much. With two books with "Ruthless" in the title, how can you NOT be on the short list ? Is there another word that better describes Woods' first 14 years as a pro ? :-D

  2. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Court... although I'm still not applying for that coaching job. ;-)

    I really do think this is mostly about Tiger's mental and emotional struggles right now. If he starts dissecting his swing while he's like this, he'll just be complicating matters. His swing hasn't gone bad; he's just lost his feel... and I think one good swing thought, something simple that won't add more frustration to his life, will do him more good.

  3. Hey - it's not Michelle Wie - Tiger doesn't just hire and fire his people at the (improper) drop of a hat. You'd be in for a few years of 6 figure paychecks. :-D

    I'm with you. Tiger's problems have less to do with golf than with the whirlwind going on inside and outside of his life. Maybe if you told him you can get him into a monastery in Tibet for a few months...