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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Why David Toms is Accurate But Not Long

David Toms isn't long off the tee. In fact, the PGA lists his driving distance so far this year as a mere 278.4 yards -- 150th on Tour.

Of course, this is offset somewhat by his driving accuracy. He hits 73.52%, which makes him 3rd on Tour. (Only Brian Gay and Ben Curtis are ahead of him.)

His resurgence is made even more incredible by the physical problems he's had over the last few years, so it's worth our time to take a look at why he's so good. This time, however, I've chosen to let others dissect his swing -- both the good and the bad -- over the last few years to see what's changed.

First, we have analysis by Peter Kostis from the 2007 St. Jude. This is a couple of years after his last win:

A quick note: While David's hip slide starts his "power leak," the hip slide itself isn't totally responsible. Remember your physics -- every action has an equal and opposite reaction. When David's hip slides forward, he's turning his body... and he pushes his right arm backward. Since his left arm is moving forward, this causes his wrists to start uncocking a little early. That's one reason I recommend keeping your hips "under you" as much as you can.

But every weakness is a strength, depending on how you look at it. The same move that causes the power leak helps him hit upward on his drives, which is just what you want.

Now let's skip ahead a couple of years. Toms is at the 2009 Travelers and, once again, Kostis is at his trusty SwingVision:

"Secondary spine tilt" looks an awful lot like a "reverse-C" to me. It may be good for driving, but it's not so good for your back. The point here is that it helps you get that upward angle with a driver. When you drive, you need to keep your head a bit behind the ball. You don't need to lean that much, however! More important is that he keeps his head and spine position relatively quiet; that makes it easier to make solid contact.

And now we come to the Crowne this past week... and guess who's back with SwingVision?

Everything sounds the same, doesn't it? However, if you check the impact position from the front view in all three videos, you'll find that two things have changed -- his ball position and his left foot angle! They aren't huge changes, but the ball was clearly a bit farther forward in his stance this weekend, maybe one ball width. And if you stop all of the videos when David's left arm is parallel to the ground on the downswing, you'll see that his foot is perpendicular to his target line in 2007, turned slightly toward the target in 2009, and turned noticeably in 2011.

Ironically this hasn't helped his driving, although that foot position should help him turn more easily. He was actually about 5 yards longer in both 2007 and 2009, and his driving accuracy this year is almost identical to 2009. So why the change?

It's his GIR. He went from 63.78% (128th) in 2007 to 68.32% (20th) in 2009, and now he's at 71.93%. That makes him 2nd on Tour! (Believe it or not, Bubba Watson is 1st.) That's roughly 6 more fairways every week, and when you putt like David Toms that can amount to several strokes per tournament.

And it's probably safe to say that the new foot position is easier on his body. Just try the two and compare -- the square foot position puts a lot more strain on you.

So don't let a lack of distance get you down. The same moves that cost you distance can actually help your accuracy if you accept them and learn to work with them. That's what David Toms did, and look what it got him. -- a Crowne!

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