Marius Filmalter: How Sergio Got His Groove Back
As the year winds down, I get to spend more time at home in Dallas. During this time, I work with some local pros and touring pros who fly in to see me. This is time well-spent, as I can give my players a more in-depth analysis of their putting strokes, and I have the time to make sure that the changes are being made effectively. I also get to work and play with the members of my home course, Old American Golf Club in north Dallas. A few members asked me about Sergio Garcia’s recent success with the claw grip, and I’m sure many of you are wondering if the claw is right for you. In a previous post, I discussed the role of the grip in your putting stroke. Unfortunately, there is no perfect grip. My research shows little to no correlation between great putters and a specific putting grip. To improve your putting immediately, make sure your shoulders and forearms are square to the intended target line. If you’re lined up square to the target line, you’ll have the best chance to be square at impact with whatever grip you use.
One of my most successful students who tried the claw grip was Mark O’Meara. Back in late 2003, Mark’s game was excellent, but he was struggling on the greens. His swing instructor Hank Haney and I persuaded Mark to try the claw grip. In 2004, he won the Dubai Desert Classic against a very strong field, including Tiger Woods.
Sergio switched to the claw approximately a year ago in Dubai. When you make drastic changes like this, sometimes you don’t feel comfortable with the change or you don’t think the improvement you’re seeing is enough of a pay-off for making the change. In Sergio’s case, he persevered with the claw. He stated in an interview that even though he made good putts with a regular grip, he hit fewer bad ones with the claw. His putting stats might suggest otherwise, but Sergio knows what to look for in a putting stroke. At the Byron Nelson Championship in May, Sergio said, "If the way I putt is with confidence, even if I miss them, I can still live with that.”
After showing some flashes of brilliance through the year, he only came into winning form recently, with back-to-back victories in Europe at the Castello Masters and the Andalucia Masters. What’s the moral of the story? Sometimes it takes a while to get results with big changes. Don’t give up! Tip: When using the claw grip, make sure the grip pressure in your right hand is very light. Also, for arc putters, ensure that the right elbow (for a right-handed player) is tucked in next to your core. A floating right elbow will make the stroke arms-y, instead of engaging the core muscles, and can lead to a straight-back, or even outside-the-line takeaway on the backstroke. [PHOTO: Sergio Garcia at the Qatar Masters in February. EPA]