Late Tuesday afternoon I was hitting balls at the north end of the Osprey driving range at the Innisbrook Resort in Tampa, where the PGA Tour is holding this week's Transitions Championship at the Copperhead course. Lately I've been re-reading Ben Hogan's Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. So I started my practice session trying to incorporate some of the tenets of Hogan's swing.
Then I remembered some of the beautiful shots that Troy Matteson hit last week at the Puerto Rico Open with his stack-and-tilt swing. So I tried that for a while and hit some pretty solid iron shots. Then Woody Austin walked past me. He was there to see some of his caddie pals who were practicing for a tournament next Monday. Austin gave Matt Hauser, Johnson Wagner's caddie, a brief lesson. He didn't say anything to me, but I could see that he was watching me as I stood over the ball. I hit another stack-and-tilt eight-iron with a tour-quality, penetrating trajectory. It looked like it was shot from a cannon.
I was pleased, but I also wanted to see what to make of Tiger's new swing. Earlier in the day I had watched a few holes of the Tavistock Cup on the Golf Channel with his teacher, Sean Foley, who told me he was encouraged by what he had seen recently in Tiger's game. Foley had been on the pro range at the Copperhead course with Jamie Lovemark. So I tried to copy some of Tiger's new positions, but I attempted them at a much slower tempo. I would pause for a full second or two at the top before I made my transition to the downswing. I must have been on my 50th 8-iron with that protracted move when I heard a quiet voice behind me say, "It looks good."
It was Martin Kaymer, the No. 1 player in the world. I had chatted with him earlier in the day after his practice round. He told me about the pressure that comes with being No. 1, that he feels like he has to win every week. I told him his putting looked good, which pleased him, he said, because he had worked really hard in the off-season on the greens. He also said he's as fit as he's ever been. Kaymer will play the next two weeks on the PGA Tour to get ready for the Masters. He had broken off from a solitary jog around the vast Innisbrook property to give me a lesson.
I hit a few more balls before he was interrupted by autograph seekers. When he came back he told me what he saw in my swing. "Farrell, you look better than I do at the top of the swing. Sometimes I can get across the line a little. But I want you to slow down your backswing and quiet your legs. When I practice I think about Ernie Els's rhythm. He's about as good as it gets when it comes to rhythm."
With that he walked off the range and settled back into his slow jog. I was done trying to swing like Hogan, Tiger or Troy Matteson. All I could think of now was Kaymer saying rhythm, rhythm, rhythm in his soft German accent. It was the most powerful golf lesson of my life. More on Kaymer from Golf.com