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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Craig Parry vs. Kevin Stadler

This is a very quick swing lesson in honor of the JBWere Masters. This is one of the few times we get to watch Craig Parry anymore; although Craig said he was tired of traveling, I can't help but wonder if Johnny Miller isn't at least partially responsible for his decision to not to play the PGA Tour anymore. Of course, everybody remembers this infamous moment in golf broadcast history:

"If Ben Hogan saw that, he'd puke." Miller rightfully took a lot of criticism for that; I wanted to point out to Johnny that Craig was still competitive with his swing. (High-hat shot, thank you very much.) But in this post I want to take issue with his description of Parry's swing as "over-the-top." To be blunt, you can't hit the ball "unbelievably good" (Miller's words) if your swing is really over-the-top. Parry does have an outside-to-in swing, but that isn't the kiss of death.

Unfortunately, YouTube has very little footage of Parry's swing, so we'll have to make do here. I thought a good comparison would be Craig Stadler's, since their builds are similar and Stadler also played with an outside-to-in swing. (And won a Masters and 2 Champions Tour majors with it, I might add.) Alas, I found no useful footage of Stadler's swing. What I did find was a decent clip of his son Kevin, who swings much like his dad did.

What I want to do is show you 2 different outside-to-in swings that work. Since I went into considerable detail about the differences between an outside-to-in (O2I) swing and an over-the-top (OTT) swing when I first tried to help Dexter fix his OTT move, I won't rehash that here. You can find links to that series on the "Some Useful Post Series" page.

First, here's some footage of Craig Parry. It shows the swing over and over maybe a dozen times, but the repetitions begin to slow down so you get a few looks at his swing in a decent slo-mo. It'a only a down-the-line look, but that's all we need:

Because Parry's fairly stout, he doesn't turn his shoulders quite as well as a slightly-built person. That's not a problem, folks -- don't think I'm saying it is. But it does mean he won't get quite as big a shoulder turn and that's why his swing is slightly O2I. And I do mean "slightly" -- if you place your mouse pointer up where his hands come up over his shoulder, you'll see he comes down slightly to the right of that spot. His downswing plane is therefore higher than his backswing plane, which is what an O2I swing is.

Please note that Parry makes a pretty good one-piece takeaway. His arms stay reasonably straight until he's halfway back on his takeaway, so his hands don't get in a position where they have to go straight up on the backswing. That is what makes a swing go OTT, and it forces them to loop up and over to start the downswing. Craig's hands go up on plane, pause long enough for him to change direction, then start down -- no OTT move.

Why does this happen? There are 2 reasons. One, his hands simply couldn't get as far behind him because he can't turn quite as much. (It's a good turn, just not as much as other players.) Second, he goes down after the ball which causes him to lean slightly forward, and that movement carries his hands a bit forward before they start down. If you know what to look for, you can even see it in the regular-speed video with Miller's comment.

But ignore Johnny Miller. This is a good solid swing that's been used by some good players like Craig Stadler (with 29 wins) and Bruce Lietzke (with 22 wins, 1 senior major). Your natural shot will be a slight fade, but a vast number of good players prefer that shot anyway. I should mention that Lietzke chose to use this shot even though he wasn't as stout as most of the players who use this swing; it's just that stout players often find this swing suits them perfectly.

Now let's take a quick look at Kevin Stadler. Fortunately this one has a Peter Kostis commentary that hits the high points of this swing; I'll just focus on what Kevin does different from Craig Parry:

A quick note about the toe of Kevin's club pointing straight down at the top of his swing: Kevin is trying to hit the ball with an open clubface, so he cups his wrist (bends it backward at the top of the swing) and this position helps him do it. Craig also cups his wrist; replay the Miller video and you'll hear him mention it. Unless you're trying to hit a fade, you'll be more consistent with either a flat or cupped wrist. (Steve Stricker uses a flat wrist; Dustin Johnson cups it big time.)

Place your mouse pointer on Kevin's hands as they go over his shoulder and you'll see that his hands travel O2I like Craig's. However -- and this is interesting -- he reroutes his club so it actually travels on a fairly standard path to the ball! This "rerouting" is also called "laying off the club" -- if you watch the clubhead, you'll see it drop straight down behind his head on the backswing, but it comes out sideways to point more behind him on the downswing. What this means is that his hands come down above the backswing plane while his clubhead comes down under it. It can be a bit tricky to do consistently; that's why Kevin and other players who use this move (like Sergio) become a little erratic at times. Craig's way is a bit simpler. (Just for the record, Kevin and Craig are both a little slack in their short games, and that causes more scoring problems for them than their swings.)

My point is this: An O2I swing is a perfectly good swing as long as it's natural to you. If you're stout -- and I'm not using that as a euphemism for "fat," because I know too many people who are broad-shouldered and even bulky who aren't fat -- if you're stout, it makes it difficult for you to get that big turn most teachers say you have to make in order to play well. It's simply not true; you have a lot of strength that many smaller players don't have; an O2I swing can let you use it. (Just for the record, Parry averaged around 275 off the tee when he played a lot, and Kevin's averaging 290 this year.) You may be able to make a bigger swing by using a closed stance, but an O2I swing isn't a problem.

And if Johnny Miller complains, just ask him how competitive his swing is lately.