This week, we get to see Tiger Woods’ latest swing makeover — the one he’s been working on with new teacher Sean Foley. This is the third such overhaul of Tiger’s amazing career but the first that seemed like an act of desperation. The first swing alteration with Butch Harmon occurred after Tiger won the 1997 Masters by a record 12 shots. The second change came with Hank Haney as Tiger’s coach. And now there’s Foley, who also teaches Tiger’s friend, Sean O’Hair. This swing change has occurred during what is easily the worst ball-striking stretch of Tiger’s career.
The most intriguing aspect of this latest guru change is Tiger’s choice to go to another “method” teacher in Foley, instead of someone like Harmon. Butch was able to make significant and positive changes in Tiger’s technique while not losing what made Woods’s swing so special. Under Harmon, Tiger’s swing became shorter, wider, and much more consistent off the tee. Together they incorporated the “stinger”, improved Tiger’s distance control with the short clubs, and achieved in 2000 the greatest single season in professional golf since Hogan in 1953.
Haney and Foley share some similarities as teachers. Their students’ swings tend to look the same because they work off a specific swing model. With Tiger, Haney’s model combined Mark O’Meara and Ben Hogan. Tiger’s swing has resembled both at times, and looked less and less like the guy who dominated the game in 2000 and 2001.
This latest swing change is difficult to understand. The pseudo stack-and-tilt move Foley is working on with Tiger is light years away from the swing Woods had when he held all four professional majors at once. Rather than copying the swing of fellow-Foley student O’Hair, I would have chosen the swing that already produced major championships.
Things to notice in Tiger’s new move that you should avoid:
• Tiger is now pivoting over his front foot. This is in sharp contrast to his swing of the early 00’s, when his weight was balanced at the top on both feet. For most amateurs this will only make your steep angle of attack worse, especially with the driver.
• Woods’s backswing is now much longer than when he played his best golf. Having his front foot pivot on the backswing does little to help this problem, and when your hips are as fast as Tiger’s on the downswing, the lack of width at the top throws the swing out of sync.
• Tiger has lost his “go-to” shot. At the height of his powers, when Woods needed to hit a fairway and get his round back on track, he always had the stinger. While it remains to be seen if Tiger has brought the shot back into his arsenal, the rest of the Tour hopes it continues to gather dust. Amateurs should always work on a go-to shot they can count on when the pressure’s on. Like Tiger, if you force the swing that isn’t working, expect the worst.