Tiger Woods, Circa 2000
Early in his career Tiger Woods's tee shots, like Jack Nicklaus's, were freakishly long and sometimes inaccurate. When he really needed to find a fairway, he simply took out a fairway wood or long iron and hit his famed stinger. His swing at the time, which he developed with his then-instructor Butch Harmon, had a simple, repeatable motion that allowed Tiger to release the club freely and naturally.
2 of 11Robert Beck/SI
Tiger Woods, 2010
When Tiger began working with Hank Haney in 2004, he began trying to make his swing more rotational like Ben Hogan's with the club traveling more around his body. Tiger has won many times with this swing, but his driving distance and accuracy have continually gone downhill. Like a lot of amateurs, Tiger is missing tee shots in both directions, with no ability to eliminate either side of the fairway. Here's what's going wrong and how Tiger can fix it.
3 of 11Fred Vuich/SI
Mistake No. 1: His Takeaway Is Too Outside and Too Flat
Tiger is swinging the club away from his body (left photo) much more than he did in 2000. This creates a much rounder swing shape and sets the shaft much flatter at an earlier stage in his motion. Check out how the butt of Tiger's club points well outside the ball (right photo), indicating that it's off plane.
4 of 11JC Video
In Tiger's old move, shown here, he swung the club more to the inside on a more upright plane with the club actually pointing slightly inside the ball.The Fix Pushing your arms and clubhead away from you disconnects them from your body, and the more out and around your club travels the more steeply it will swing on the way down. Instead, keep your arms and club closer to your body as you take the club away. This allows them to drop to the inside on your downswing and release freely and with more power.
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Numbers Don't Lie: 'Stevie, I need more power'
In 2010, Tiger is driving the ball 10.5% shorter than his peak distance average of 316.1 yards set in 2005. More troubling is the fact that the gap between Tiger and the 10 longest drivers on Tour is increasing while the gap between Tiger and the average Tour player is shrinking. So far this season, Tiger is a middle-of-the-pack bomber.
6 of 11Fred Vuich/SI, Robert Beck SI
Mistake No. 2: He's Laid Off at the Top
Tiger's current top position (left photo) is radically different from where it was in 2000. His arm swing is significantly flatter, the club is in a laid-off position (pointing left of the target), and his left wrist is slightly bowed, which closes the clubface a bit. From here he has to hold off the release or he'll hit a pull-hook.
The FixTiger needs to get more neutral again (right photo), and so do you if your clubshaft points to the left of the target like Tiger's at the top. The laid-off position is big trouble for amateurs, almost ensuring a push, slice, or even severe pull to the left. If you're a slicer, you're actually better off pointing the clubhead to the right of the target than the left. For weekend players, this position gives you a better chance of squaring the clubhead at impact consistently.
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Numbers Don't Lie: Rough Days, Indeed
While Tiger has always struggled with hitting fairways, he's missing them more frequently, and not in the traditional Tiger way. In past seasons his bad miss was a block to the right. In 2010, the left rough is getting equal billing.
8 of 11Fred Vuich/SI
Mistake No. 3: He's Too Steep on His Downswing
Usually when a golfer is "stuck" it means the club is coming too far from the inside with the body out in front of the arms. In Tiger's case his body is out in front of his arms, but his arms and club are too far away from his body. This can work with a mid- or short-iron, but with longer clubs, particularly the driver, it can be disastrous.
9 of 11JC Video
If you look at Tiger's 2000 position, shown here, you can see that he's swinging more from the inside and the club is working away from his body after impact. This "letting go" is a trait shared by all great drivers of the ball.
Tiger needs to get back to delivering the club on an in-out path and stop trying to hold off his release. This is good advice for you, too, but for a different reason. Tiger is making a conscious effort to hold off his release. You're probably holding off your release because your motion is forcing you to. Picture yourself in a batter's box and think about starting the ball to the right of the pitcher's mound. Be an opposite-field hitter and your arms will shoot out away from your body.
10 of 11Fred Vuich/SI, Donald Miralle/Allsport/Getty Images
Mistake No. 4: He's Not Exiting Impact on Plane
Here's a telltale sign of Tiger's recent struggles: the club is exiting below his left shoulder (left photo). This low exit position indicates that his arms are simply too far away from his body on his downswing. The result is a jammed position reminiscent of a mid-handicapper's swing. You'll also notice that his left foot has left the ground, which causes his body to spin out through impact.
The Fix The quality of any swing position is the result of the positions that preceded it. Making key fixes in his takeaway and top position likely would repair everything that follows, including his low exit plane. If you're feeling jammed like Tiger in your through-swing, try to keep your arms closer to your body on your downswing so they can get farther away from you through impact. Think "long arms" as you move past impact and you'll be on track (right photo).
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Numbers Don't Lie: Misses That Really Miss
Not only is Tiger missing fairways at a personal-record pace, he's missing them by greater distances than ever. The PGA Tour ShotLink system tracks how far into the rough a player's ball lands when it misses the short stuff (measured from the fairway edge). In 2010, Tiger's misses are landing 24.7% deeper in the junk than the Tour average.
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