Tiger's Evolving Swing

April 06, 2009
April 06, 2009

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April 6, 2009

Tiger's Evolving Swing

TIGER WOODS'S SWING has changed dramatically in 14 years. Near the end of his amateur career, in 1995, Woods, then 19, had a hard draw and a strong grip, a long and loose motion, a steep plane and explosive lower-body action. Tiger's swing produced victories, but it lacked the dependability that he would need to challenge Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major championships.

This is an article from the April 6, 2009 issue

So when Woods turned pro in '96, he began an overhaul under the guidance of coach Butch Harmon. Woods started to flatten and shorten his swing. Harmon altered Tiger's posture by having him bend at the waist, which allowed his arms to move down the line more. He improved the timing of Woods's lower body so that it was in sync with his upper body, especially at impact. The changes were shockingly effective, as Woods proved in 1999 and 2000 by winning four majors and 13 other Tour events.

But there was one problem: Woods's violent lower-body action put too much torque on his left leg. A serious knee injury was, in my opinion, inevitable. Over the years, Woods has had four surgeries on his left knee, including the major reconstruction last June.

After 8½ months away, he returned to action in February with yet more modifications to a swing now being shaped by Hank Haney. Woods has flattened his plane even more. His grip is almost totally neutral, producing a fade instead of a draw. But the biggest changes are two tweaks to reduce stress on his left knee: His left foot is flared open (instead of being square) at address, and in the swing his lower body is relatively quiet while his upper trunk generates most of his power. Woods's swing looks good and won't cause any more injuries.

Adams is director of instruction at Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone, N.J., and a GOLF MAGAZINE Top 100 Teacher.

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2009Now he keeps the clubhead outside the hands on the takeaway, cocking the club and putting the club face in a much more open position, indicative of a fader.Today the club is pointing straight down the line and the club face is square. At this stage the club is much more solid and supported at the top than it was before.Now Tiger's right foot is almost flat, and his upper and lower body is in sync. He's hitting primarily with his upper-body rotation rather than whipping his lower body through impact.While turning, his shoulders are more level than in '95 and his arms have swung to the left following the rotation of his body. The result is a much more reliable soft fade.He has swung his arms a lot more to the left, and the ball is likely fading a bit to the right. Most important, his lower body is so much more grounded—notice his soft and relaxed left leg—and quiet than in '95.
2008Woods is more bent over than in '95 to produce more of a one-plane swing, during which the arms and the shoulders travel on the same arc.By '08 the shaft is slightly laid off, a dramatic change from '95, and the club face is extremely open.Here he's swinging more down the line, which makes the ball start out straight toward the target.His arms are much lower, indicating a straighter ball flight.
1995The teenage Woods's posture is erect, which is common among two-plane swingers. The erect posture causes his shoulders to turn flatter and his arms to swing more upright.During the takeaway, Woods's arms extend back, keeping the club face shut and facing the ball, while the club travels to the inside.Notice how upright Woods's youthful swing is. He has created a gap between his right arm and torso, and the club is across the line with the club face shut. These are results of his one-piece takeaway and strong grip.Woods's right heel is already up and his hips are cleared, or facing the target, while his upper body is facing away from the target. The disjoint between his upper and lower body makes it hard to square the club at impact.Tiger's right foot is totally released and the club is swung dramatically inside out, resulting in a sweeping hook.Look how high Tiger's hands are, which tells you he had an inside-to-out draw action.