Re-Tooling Tiger

Swing coach Hank Haney may have to help Tiger Woods remake his swing again.
Travis Lindquist/Getty Images

Tiger Woods’s swing is golf’s gold standard. With help from high-speed video cameras and 3D swing analyzers, millions of golfers mimic the action of the world’s top player, club twirl and all. But the signature move of that golf swing — the snapping of Tiger’s left leg at impact — might be the origin of his knee problems.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Peter Kostis, an on-course analyst for CBS Sports, said, “His natural leg action and swing, the one he’s had since childhood and that creates his power, also puts a lot of pressure on his knee.”

Butch Harmon, Tiger’s former coach, chimed in on the Dan Patrick Show on Thursday morning. “He puts a tremendous amount of torque in his body to generate that speed,” Harmon said. “That’s just his motion. That’s how he swings the club.”

Since he became a professional in 1996, Tiger has made two significant swing changes. The first was done under Harmon’s watchful eyes in 1998, sthe second in 2004, under the direction of Hank Haney. After winning the 2005 Masters and British Open, Woods said, “The changes that I’ve made were to become more consistent in major championships, and that’s exactly what happened.”

For Kostis, there was more to Tiger’s second swing change than just a desire to get more consistent. “Tiger elected to change his swing to take pressure off his knee,” he said. “That was one of the major reasons to make the change and work with Hank.” However, as someone who has studied Woods’s 130-mile-per-hour driver swing, Kostis added, “I’m not sure that the new swing has greatly reduced the pressure. His driver swing is violent, and his left heel still comes up.”

Harmon’s analysis is similar. “If you watched him in slow motion on TV last weekend, you could see how his heel pulls back and his left knee slams shut and his hips pull out of the way. It’s more like cracking a whip. That’s how he generates power.”

If Woods wants to avoid further damage to his left knee, he may need to undergo a third swing change. “The golf swing is in a constant state of change during a player’s career,” Kostis said. “I suspect his swing will become a little different in that his lower body will quiet down and his upper body will be more dominant. This is a naturally occurring evolution as we age. It’s just going to be forced on Tiger a lot earlier because of the knee.”

Harmon feels confident that given a clean bill of health, Woods will be back at the top of his game. “He will obviously make some changes, but then again he’s very good at making those changes.”