This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of GOLF.
I owe all kinds of credit to my longtime coach, Michael Bannon, who has helped me reacquainted myself with these five key moves whenever I had stray from from. Use my fixes to transform your move into a championship swing.
Bannon is the only coach I’ve ever had. It’s scary — he knows my swing better than I do. When things started sliding, he knows exactly what to do: Get back to the basics that rocketed me to No. 1 in the first place, using check points and feels that Michael taught me when I was a little kid. Now my driver, iron and wedge swings are again on autopilot. My performance stats are about the same as last year, but I can sense a difference. Every shot feels flush. Copy my fixes and you, too, can rediscover your best swing.
Game Changer No. 1 — Activate your address position
To crush it, you need a comfortable stance. Simply tilt from your hips while flexing your knees.
You’d think I’d be able to get into a solid address position without thinking, considering the tens of thousands of swings I’ve made in my lifetime. The truth is that it’s as easy to fall into bad habits here as it is in any other part of your swing. So I work on my address every time I practice.
The Key: Settle in so that your arms hang freely and are far enough in front of you to whip the club through the impact zone without your body getting in the way.
Game Changer No. 2 — My one-piece takeaway
Stop slices and hooks by simply ‘pushing” the club straight back
The first two feet of my swing are critical. If I start the club back on plane, I won’t have to reroute it on the way down, so I can just rip it without fearing a mis-hit. Granted, my takeaway isn’t perfect. I occasionally yank the club too far inside [then come over the top in the downswing], or “lift” it up and out [which gets me “trapped” coming down]. But I can fix those flaws.
The Key: “Push” the club straight back. Picture a wall running parallel to your toe line and straight up through your hands [above]. As you start your swing, keep your hands and the clubhead on the wall.
Game Changer No. 3 — ‘Turn and Load’ at the top
I’m flexible enough to turn as far back as I want without discomfort. In fact, I often turn too much. I can rotate my shoulders past 90 degrees without thinking, which makes it difficult to get everything back to where it needs to be at impact.
The Key: I stop my swing when my left shoulder hits my chin. If that’s plenty of turn for me, then it’s plenty for you. If I stop my shoulder turn at 90 degrees while keeping my right knee flexed — which lets me load a lot of energy — there’s not a par 5 on earth I can’t reach in two. Your swing will feel tighter, not shorter — a great feeling to have.
Game Changer No. 4 — Hit irons with your left knee
When I’m hitting driver, reaching a solid top position is my only goal. If I’m good at the top, all I have to do is unwind and the ball will go far. When the ball’s on the ground instead of teed up, however, there’s an extra step.
The Key: To hit solid irons, move down and forward from the top as you unwind, so that the bottom of your swing occurs slightly in front of the ball. It’s easy to do if you start your downswing by driving your left knee toward the target, then straighten it as you approach impact [above]. This gets your energy and swing power moving in the direction of the hit, so you leave nothing behind.
Game Changer No. 5 — Wedge it close with your body
If there’s one area of my game where the stats show obvious improvement, it’s my full wedges. In 2013, I ranked 153rd in proximity to the pin on shots from 125 to 150 yards. Then, in 2014, I moved up 139 spots to No. 14! I knocked shots from that range almost four feet closer to the hole.
The Key: Move your body and arms as a single unit. This turns your normal power swing into a control swing, and control is far more important than power from short range. Here’s a visual that’ll help: At address, your shoulders and arms form a triangle in front of your chest.
Your goal? Keep the triangle intact and in front of your chest from start to finish. It helps to swing with “dead arms” and use your torso, not your legs, as the engine of your swing.