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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ai Yi Yi! What a Shoulder Coil!

Ai Miyazato came very close to victory at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup this past weekend, but the Empress sprinted past her on the back 9. Ai lost by a single stroke.

It's easy to forget that Ai has won 23 times worldwide with 7 of those being LPGA events, her latest being the 2011 Evian Masters. Not only that, she's got 2 runner-up finishes in only 3 starts this year! She isn't flamboyant like some players; she just quietly goes about her business. And despite being only 5'2" she averages over 235 yards off the tee. (It's not unusual for her to drive it nearly 250. Some of you guys out there only wish you were as long as she is!)

How does a small person like Ai generate this much distance? It's a combination of her one-piece takeaway and huge shoulder turn. This slo-mo video is pretty recent, and it's very instructive. Ai uses a one-piece takeaway to the extreme, and it gives her a huge shoulder turn and an equally huge swing arc. Just check out her shoulder-height position in her backswing! (It's at the 00:17 mark.)

BTW, this is a very cool video. Once you start it, you can pause it and hover your cursor over the 'track' at the bottom to see individual frames of each second in the video. If you click the track when you see the 00:17 picture, the video will move to that point. Nice! I'm glad YouTube has added this feature.

I can't help but wonder if Ai's swing was influenced by Annika Sorenstam. Annika has stated many times that one of her key swing thoughts was to keep her right arm as straight as possible for as long as possible during her backswing. As you can see from this video, Ai's right elbow has barely bent even though her arms are at shoulder height. I suspect that's part of the reason that her hands are so high at the top of her backswing. Bubba Watson does something similar, as you can see in this video. You can click on the 'track' at the 1:01 mark to see him do the same thing. (Bubba's elbow bends at the 1:02 mark.)

If you decide you want to try this, remember that you don't want your arms to be stiff. You have to really turn your shoulders to reach this position without tensing up your arms and shoulders. This isn't a short hard swing. Rather, it's a long smooth swing. You'd hurt yourself otherwise!

Most weekend players probably aren't flexible enough to get a turn this big. But it goes to show that you can create a lot of clubhead speed even if you aren't incredibly strong. Even small golfers can have big swings!

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