Tiger Woods

New year, new swing. But is Tiger back?

At press time, Tiger Woods has played in only one tournament this year, the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He finished a respectable 15th after a frustrating final day on the Monterey Peninsula. Although his putter failed him down the stretch, Tiger struck the ball very well. He hit an impressive 72.73% of his fairways and 72.22% of his greens. So, could 2012 finally be the year Tiger dominates again? Impossible to say. Still, we were curious about his new swing (which he’s been working on with Sean Foley), so we asked Dr. David Wright, one of Golf Tips’ Top-25 instructors, to take a closer look. Here’s what he saw.

At the top of his swing, Tiger has tremendous coil. He’s beautifully balanced and has a very solid foundation in his lower body. This gives him maximum leverage. Because he has a greater spine tilt in his new setup, it eliminates any possibility of a level shoulder turn. That’s why he’s working more “under” than around. Tiger’s first move down is both lateral and rotational. This is evidenced by the amount of space under his right heel. Note his left-side belt loops. They show that he’s beginning to rotate. (In fact, if you follow his belt loops in each frame. you can see how efficiently he uses his hips in building power.) As Tiger’s hips rotate, they’ve unloaded a tremendous amount of power. Notice where his belt loops are compared to the previous photo. You can also see more daylight under his right heel. His forearms are parallel to the ground, and the shaft is still almost perpendicular to the ground. That’s tremendous lag.

Now you can see a ton of daylight under his right heel. His arms and hands have dropped, and his body moves both rotationally and laterally as he bumps toward the target. This is a major power move, and he’s multiplying the torque that we see in the first photo with the 90 degrees of separation between his upper and lower bodies. At impact, Tiger’s left hip continues to move laterally (upward) as his right shoulder works under. This simultaneous rotational and lateral motion requires tremendous timing to maintain balance and square the clubface. Note that his shoulder angle at impact is greater than it was at the top of his swing. Here Tiger’s club really extends down the target line, and his continued lateral motion is made clear by his left foot’s “roll-over.” This position minimizes how much his left knee snaps, although it compromises his balance and redistributes stress up his spine.

All of his power has unloaded and he continues to roll out on his left side. Note the backward tilt of his spine. This tilt is necessary to sustain balance through his swing, but adds stress on his spine and interior left knee. As Tiger’s hips continue to rotate, his spine angle starts to move to a more upright but still tilted position, his lateral motion stops, and his balance begins to neutralize. Notice the subtle flare of his left foot in his finish. This flare is the body’s natural move for balance.

Dr. David Wright, PGA, is considered one of America’s top-100 golf instructors. He teaches at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, Calif. Visit him online at wrightbalance.com. and gripsize.com.

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