Tiger Woods of 1994 would hit it 30 yards past Bubba Watson, says Johnny Miller

July 29, 2014

It’s been 20 years since Tiger Woods won the first of three consecutive U.S. Amateurs. Back in 1994, he could top 130 mph of swing speed without trying. If today’s balls and clubs had been available when Tiger was in college, the 18-year-old Woods would have been 30 yards longer than Bubba is now. Tiger had a mega-wide, mega-long swing built more for a long-drive contest than a U.S. Open, but he tweaked it under Butch Harmon to create arguably the most effective motion in golf history.

The coaching switch in 2004 from Harmon to Hank Haney remains a mystery to me. Hank’s out-to-under swing looked good on Tiger (he won six majors with it) but not as good as Butch’s did. The Haney move led to more misses than Tiger was willing to accept.

So what was Woods doing differently with current coach Sean Foley before his season-interrupting back injury? Check his practice swing the next time he’s on TV. You’ll see Tiger swing back to the inside, then come over, or above, the plane on the way down — sort of like Jim Furyk in reverse. Swinging inside-over this way forces you to aggressively clear your left side, which Tiger had a hard time doing with Haney. You’ll hit pushes and pulls when you fail to clear your left side, and Tiger missed it both ways under Hank’s tutelage.

Woods doesn’t actually swing inside-over when he hits a shot. He just uses his practice swing to remind him to get his left hip out of the way so he can move through impact unimpeded, and you don’t see Tiger’s downswing getting “stuck” much anymore. Though his driving is a long way from his Harmon-era dominance, his irons are still razor sharp. Don’t forget: Tiger was in the top 20 in ballstriking in 2013 and topped the all-around ranking, too. Despite what some pundits think, Tiger’s not dead yet.

Try Woods’s inside-over pre-swing practice move if you’re struggling to clear your left side. Now, if you already swing too much across the ball, buyer beware. But for the rest of you, this motion is a reliable way to rip a high, soft-landing cut, the shot that made Tiger a living legend.