It’s interesting looking at Tiger Woods taking up is role as Vice-Captain at this week’s Ryder Cup, however its possibly even more incredible that so many of the juniors that I currently teach, don’t even know who tiger woods is! To someone like me who grew up thinking Tiger Woods was a god, it’s almost strange to see how much he has struggled in the last number of years.
When I look back on Tiger’s career there was so many amazing victories, incredible performances and simply jaw dropping shots however the one thing I always wondered, probably even more so since I came to Dubai, is what would have happened if he stayed with Butch Harmon.
While deep down I know this is an unanswerable question, a question so many have asked in the past and to this day still do, I still to this day look back on his swing during the 2000 era and think it is simply one of the most “perfect” swings you will ever see, and one he used to great effect during his time with Butch.
Rather than try to answer this question, or debate many of the issues that surround such a vast subject, I would much rather assess, share and admire the perfect storm of a talented athlete and great coaching principles which resulted in Tiger winning all 4 majors in a row.
Tiger’s address position to me is one that shows simple athleticism at first glance. When we look at the image on the left hand side many would pick up on what appears to be a slightly rounded back/shoulder area, however the first thing that stands out to me is how relaxed and ready to move he appears. The hands hang very much under his shoulders, and he looks to be perfectly balanced from heel to toe.
From a face on view we see some fantastic fundamentals on display, a beautiful grip where Tiger demonstrates beautiful positioning and pressure on the golf club. Tiger never appears to look to tight but always looks to have full control of the golf club from this position. We see no gaps anywhere in the grip and the thumbs are very much in a “short thumb” position which Hogan had always spoken about.
As the club moves away from the golf ball into the takeaway position we see Tiger maintain a stable lower while allowing the club to get some height as the momentum of the club begins to work upwards in front of the body. The club face matches the spine angle or possibly sits even a fraction more vertically which again I like to see as it allows for some natural flow or rotation of the club head and forearms.
The front view shows us many of the same characteristics:
A stable lower body that demonstrates no lateral movement
A nice turn of the shoulders to move the club away from the ball
A softening of the right elbow and a hinging of the wrist
As Tiger approaches the top of the backswing we see the right arm reach a fully folded position, and as the elbow remains in front of his body the hands begin to work up through the shoulders. The club remains on a fantastic plane, and as you extend a line through the shaft you will see it remains slightly inside the golf ball.
From a face on position we can see that tiger has maintained an exceptionally stable lower body throughout the backswing. He has maintained the width in his arms as the shoulders begin to approach their full range of motion.
Top of Backswing
Tigers top of backswing is a thing of beauty for so many reasons! First of all he has maintained his posture exceptionally well, secondly he never looks like he is trying to push his body past its limitations, he looks comfortable and in control. These are two characteristics which I feel Tiger lost later on in his career, when the backswing often looked longer, faster and less stable.
I also love how he has positioned his hands, shoulders and arms. We see a relatively upright arm and shoulder plane, where the right forearm sits nicely underneath the club which helps to support it and give that look of stability and control at the top of the backswing. As you will see tiger demonstrates a very neutral writs position at this point which will allow him to turn towards the golf ball with little or no manipulation of the club in order to square the face at impact.
From a face on point of view Tiger has maintained a balanced and poised position at the top. We see his legs are exceptionally stable, almost giving the impression that they have not moved at all as he worked his way up to this position. His feet are gripping the ground ready to drive his body forward and through the golf ball, and his arms have maintained its initial width forcing the club not to get too long at the top of the backswing.
As Tiger begins to start the club downwards towards the golf ball he does a great job of keeping the club pointing slightly inside the line of the ball, and the club face stays in a relatively neutral position. This movement is definitely one of the key characteristics to why Tiger was almost unbeatable during this period. Having the club maintain its angle on the down swing rather than flattening or falling too far behind his back, combined with a club face that has also remained relatively neutral means Tiger is in a great position to attack the golf ball without fear of any “big miss”.
As we look at Tiger from a face on view we see the weight begin to transfer towards the lead foot. The pressure appears to push towards the lead toe and if you were being critical you could say that he shows a slight slide towards impact as you see his lead knee beginning to move slightly more towards the target than we would like, and his torso starts to hang back slightly as a result.
As the club approaches impact we can see the club head is slightly behind the hands which would tie in slightly with the small slide we mentioned in the previous paragraph. This type of movement towards the ball will tend to create a draw shape, with the miss being a push or a hook. Despite this position Tiger has maintained his original spine angle throughout, we continue to see exceptionally stable footwork with no sign “jumping” as the club passes through impact.
From the face on view we see a more obvious look to the slide pattern that we mentioned as the knee begins to move outside the ankle, the hip begins to follow and the torso starts to hang back away from the target a little more than you would probably like to see.
As we look at Tiger at Impact or slightly after, we can see that the club exits at a similar speed to his body, creating a stable club face through the impact zone and not “flipping” or turning over too early.
As we look at the face on image we see the same, the hands have remained slightly in front of the club head through impact, and at this stage we can see the shaft is definitely angled more towards his lead arm which again shows signs of an exceptionally stable club face which we mentioned early.
At this point in time we do see Tiger’s body “hang back” slightly more than we would probably like to see. This has happened as a result of the slide pattern that we could see as the club began to work downwards towards the golf ball.
Although these images are taken at different points in time, there are certain things I would like to point out about both. First of all on the left hand side we see tiger release the club nicely around his body and back up on a similar angle or plane to where it came down. When we look at Tiger’s feet we can see how passive they look even as the swing is almost finished. The left foot has remained planted and stable showing no wasted energy, and the right foot has rolled inwards which is allowing the pressure to shift correctly towards the lead foot and reduce any chances of early extension earlier in this swing.
Looking at the face on image which is taken slightly earlier in the swing you will notice that Tiger has posted quite nicely on his lead leg at this point and continued to turn his chest and shoulders through the golf ball to almost fully face the target at this point. This movement allows the chest to stay in sync with the arms through the golf ball, as we also see a natural release of the club head at this point, possibly even slightly more than we would like (due to his hanging back pattern that we mentioned earlier) However I would always prefer to see that type of release compared to one where a player tries to unnaturally “hold” or restrict the club face from turning.
Tigers finishing position is perfectly balanced after making a full turn through to the target. At this point we see very little sign of hanging back and we see Tigers entire body finishes almost perfectly in line with his lead leg, which will put very little if any pressure on his back. This again is something that we would rarely see in later years.