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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Gary Woodland Plays Away

It's great to have new players step up and win tournaments, perhaps giving us a glimpse of what the first generation to grow up seeing Tiger's athleticism as a prerequisite can do. However, it's not so cool trying to find slo-mo swing footage suitable for our purposes here at Ruthless Golf, simply because these are new guys who haven't drawn the attention of YouTube videographers yet.

Such is the case with Transitions winner Gary Woodland. The only recent footage (at least it's slo-mo!) is this fairway bunker shot from the 2011 Hope -- you remember, where he lost in a playoff to another new guy, Jhonattan Vegas:

Since long sand shots require a little different swing, it's not much help figuring out his normal swing, is it? I wouldn't be so sure. Take a look at this normal-speed driver footage from two years ago:

And in the interest of completeness, here's a down-the-line shot that, based on the notes, is probably from the same practice session:

Apparently Gary's playing both shots the same!

I usually try to find something a weekend player can use, and these two stills from the regular-speed video catch Gary at the end of his backswing and the start of his downswing:

Now I'll grant you that Gary Woodland is one of the more athletic players on Tour. He's 6'1" tall, 200 lbs, was a college basketball player until he decided that he was probably too short to make it in the NBA, and drives the ball just under 300 yards. Typical of long drivers, his Driving Accuracy isn't so good -- 56.58% -- and he'll also need to work on his Scrambling -- 56.72% -- if he wants to become a consistent winner on Tour.

But his GIR is great -- 71.37%. That, coupled with some good putting, keeps him in the game. And I think what you can see in those two stills is the reason.

Gary, like Yani Tseng, keeps both feet pretty flat on the ground throughout his swing and still gets a pretty big shoulder turn. However -- and this is a big thing -- Gary doesn't get anywhere near parallel at the top of his swing.

Why is that important? Well, you can find some discussion of this between me and Court in the comments on the Tseng post, where we talked about how keeping both feet flat can sometimes help you be more accurate. The problem is how much flexibility you need to do that with a full swing. But the point here is that you don't need to be particularly athletic to keep both feet flat on the ground if you make a shorter swing. (Interestingly enough, long hitter J.B. Holmes also has a short backswing. Coincidence?)

That's what Gary does. It doesn't really help him with a driver -- and the power he develops with that shorter swing may be beyond most of us (perhaps he needs a stiffer driver shaft to handle all that power?) -- but this technique is definitely usable with your short and mid-irons. I think the biggest thing it does is help you stay balanced, which helps you be more accurate.

As Court pointed out in the Tseng post, this won't work for everybody because some of us simply have to move our feet to swing well. However, you may be one of the people for whom it works, so I'm passing it on.

And one other thing: Gary told the guys on Golf Central that the one thought he tries to carry through his round is tempo, and that as long as his tempo is good, his swing will probably be good as well. That alone is a great thing you can learn from him, but teamed with that short balanced swing, he could be around for a long time.

Just look at his year so far. He's got 4 Top 10s with a win in 7 starts. If you're having trouble hitting greens, Gary's approach might be worth experimenting with.

Just don't expect those 300-yard drives... at least, not right off. ;-)

1 comment:

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