Vijay Singh’s timing is impeccable. He couldn’t have picked a better or more profitable time to get hot.
Let’s check off his recent achievements: He won the World Golf Championship in early August and then notched back-to-back victories at the Barclays and Deutsche Bank Championships just a few weeks later. That’s a total of three out of six for a .500 average, good enough to make any big-league ballplayer jealous. Heck, some NFL teams would take it too. (Isn’t that right, Lions fans?)
He has wrapped up the FedEx Cup — that’s another cool $9 million. If that weren’t enough there is an even-money chance that he’ll win “Player of the Year” honors after surpassing Tiger Woods on the money list. (The other players pick Player of the Year, and there’s nothing they respect more than the money list.) But what’s going on with Vijay's left arm? You’ve probably noticed that during the last three events Vijay has been sporting a white wrap that extends along his left arm from wrist to elbow. A difficult interview in the best of times, Vijay has been reluctant to discuss his injury. However, Vijay talked about it briefly after he won the Barclays. Q: And the arm?A: “I don’t know what happened. It’s been coming along, it’s been two weeks. It's tendons and tendinitis and I haven’t been hitting that many balls and it still hurts, so maybe I should go back to hitting a lot of balls. It just hurts, and wrap it up, it just takes away the pressure. It helps when I wrap it up.Q: So it doesn’t hurt while you’re playing?A: No, it doesn’t hurt when I hit it. Vijay’s obsessive practice habits are legendary. He reminds me of Ben Hogan, who found his swing secret “in the dirt.” In the sheer number of balls hit Vijay probably surpassed “The Hawk” long ago.
So why has Vijay suddenly developed a case of tendinitis now? In the interview he speculates that perhaps he’s just been practicing too much. This would seem to be a plausible theory as tendinitis is an overuse injury.
But I think that there is another underlying reason for his injury — the action of Vijay’s right hand through impact. As many observers have noted, Vijay’s right hand momentarily flies off the grip through impact and then reconnects with his left hand post-impact.
As a teacher, I have seen this “wrap-around” move before. It is unique to better players whose release is right-side dominated. But make no mistake — this is a swing fault which would result in a vicious hook for most players!
In fact, it was this same tendency that Hogan fought in his swing. Hogan discovered that if he supinated his left wrist at impact he could effectively hold off the toe of the club. This move, together with a series of other measures, mitigated the hook that plagued Hogan in his early years.
Vijay employs a different approach from Hogan to fight the same swing fault. Instead of supinating his left wrist, Vijay uses his left forearm to block the rotation of the club through impact and into the finish. And yes, there is no question that he does it well. Very well!
But there is always a price to pay for compensations (which incidentally require constant practice to manage and depend on impeccable timing and tempo). I believe it’s this compensation that has led to Vijay’s mysterious case of tendinitis. While his injury may subside during the off-season with rest and medication, the central question is: What about the future?
Will the tendinitis resurface again when he resumes his former practice regimen? While I wish him the best, I’m afraid that it might. As the 45-year old Fijian moves forward he will undoubtedly find that his body is not as resilient as in the past -- injuries take longer to heal and are more likely to reoccur — the curse of advancing age.
Should Vijay consider eliminating this swing fault? The answer to that question is a resounding “yes” -- especially if his injury moves to the more serious category of chronic. We’ll just have to wait and see what the mercurial Vijay does next. If he needs help I’m always available. Vijay, just pick up the phone -- I think you can afford my rates!Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Rod Lidenberg teaches at Prestwick Golf Club in Woodbury, Minn.