19. YOU'RE TIGER IN 2010: LOST
HERE'S THE SECRET SWING-PLANE SWITCH THAT PUT THE FORMER AND CURRENT WORLD NO. 1 BACK ON TOP
Most swing experts agree that in recent years Tiger hasn't been, well, Tiger -- not since his U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines, in 2008. And Woods has admitted that even before that iconic win, his hot putter masked full-swing flaws. In 2013? He claimed five Tour wins by early August. He's as close to being the old Tiger -- the one who led the Tour in greens in regulation five times in the 2000s -- as ever.
"Credit his coach, Sean Foley, and Tiger's army-like work ethic," says Top 100 Teacher Jon Tattersall, who has been observing the changes that Woods and Foley have been working on since 2010. "Together they've eradicated the error-prone backswing that had Woods missing in every direction -- the same type of errant shotmaking that plagues weekend players."
Comparing Tiger's 2008 swing to the one that has already brought him $7 million plus in earnings this year (below) proves that small fixes in key spots can turn slices and hooks -- and everything in between -- into straighter, longer shots. Woods may have fallen short in the majors this year, but his new swing has him back at No. 1, and back in the game.
ADDRESS: Tiger's weak grip and tall posture look okay, but the taller you stand, the flatter you'll turn your shoulders. As you'll see later in Woods's old swing, this isn't always a good thing.
BACKSWING: The weaker grip allows the clubface to rotate open to his swing plane. It takes Tiger-like hand-eye coordination to get back to square at impact from this position, and sometimes even he couldn't do it.
TOP: Tiger's arms and shoulders move on completely different planes, with the club across the line. This mismatch requires so many compensations that achieving solid impact takes a bit of luck.
ADDRESS: Tiger has a stronger, less neutral grip and more forward torso bend. With his chest closer to the ball, he can turn his shoulders on a steeper plane and start from a neutral shaft position.
BACKSWING: The stronger grip limits his forearm rotation and keeps the clubface more square going back. With no compensations required at this point, Woods simply keeps turning to store massive power.
TOP: Tiger's new shoulder-turn and arm swing are a perfect match. Everything lines up: shoulders, left-arm plane, left wrist and clubface. This is your goal on any swing. Now, swing away!
THREE MOVES FOR TIGER-LIKE PERFECTION
If you struggle to hit the ball straight, copy Tiger's new backswing. "When you're square and on plane at the top, like Tiger is now," Tattersall says, "you have a great chance to get square and on-plane at impact."
1. LOOK OVER YOUR LEFT SHOULDER
Notice how far Tiger has rotated his shoulders without moving his head out of the position it held at setup. "This is a sign of a fully coiled, fundamentally correct backswing," Tattersall says. You know you're in the right position if you can see the ball while looking over your left shoulder when you reach the top, something you won't be able to do if you move your head off the ball or sway instead of turn. Tattersall adds a word of caution: "You can't turn and keep your head still if your neck muscles aren't flexible, like Tiger's. Nobody thinks about stretching their neck, but it's critical for optimizing your swing power. Check with your trainer."
2. BEND OVER!
Because a taller posture fuels a too-flat swing, increase your forward bend at address. The trick, as Tiger has done, is to employ the right amount of tilt. "Most Tour players bend forward about 30 degrees," Tattersall says. "You might not know what this feels like, so imagine you have a light attached to the middle of your chest. Now bend over [from your hips, not your waist] into a position where the light would shine just beyond the ball."
3. PUT A KINK IN YOUR RIGHT WRIST
If there's one picture that shows how much Tiger's swing has improved under Sean Foley, it's the one below. "Tiger's left arm, the back of his left wrist and the clubface all line up," Tattersall says. "Not only is this classic Tiger, it's classic ballstriker." If you copy Tiger's new address position, you shouldn't have much trouble getting your left arm to look like his. The hard part is keeping your left wrist flat. "You have to really focus on it," Tattersall says, "because it doesn't happen by itself." Letting your left wrist cup [bend backward] is the fast way to hit a slice. "Amateurs struggle with this because most of them focus only on the left wrist," Tattersall adds. The fix? Use your right hand to keep your left wrist flat, or to even bow it [bend it forward] slightly. "As you swing to the top," Tattersall says, "try to move your right-hand knuckles closer to your right forearm, creating wrinkles in the back of your right wrist. This will pull your left wrist into perfect position."
20. YOU DON'T KNOW WHICH WEDGE LOFTS YOU NEED
Build your wedge set around the loft of your pitching wedge. Most amateurs play with clubs that include a 45-degree pitching wedge, which is similar to what 9-irons used to be. As a result, you should strongly consider buying the gap-wedge that goes with your irons-set -- it's usually around 50-degrees -- and then adding two more lofted wedges, a 55- and 60-degree combo. If you struggle with the severely lofted clubs, consider a 54- and 58-degree tandem instead.
21. YOU TOP LOTS OF TEE SHOTS
"You're probably putting too much weight on your back foot," says Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs. "This moves the bottom of your swing arc behind the ball, making it tough to make solid contact, except with the top of the ball. Make a more rotational backswing -- don't sway off the ball -- and then focus on making a nice balanced finish with your weight over your front foot."
22. YOUR PLAYING PARTNER MOVES LIKE A SNAIL
Instead of pointing fingers, frame the issue as a group problem. "Say something like, 'Fellas, let's pick it up -- the guys behind us are waiting,' " says Tim Scott, executive director of Speed Golf International. "That gets the message across without putting it on one guy." Set an example, too. If you're already marking your ball while Dawdling Doug is back in the fairway, he'll feel the pressure to step on the gas.
23. YOU SHAKE LIKE A KITTEN OVER BIG PUTTS
Feeling nervous on the greens? Top 100 Teacher Marius Filmalter suggests first gripping your putter very tightly, and then releasing your hands completely before regripping with a softer, proper touch. The contrast reminds your brain what a good grip feels like and helps you calibrate the just-right pressure.