Somax Analysis of Tiger Woods
At The 2011 British Open

During the British Open, Tiger Woods demonstrated the same physical and swing changes that he had at the US Open: a C-curve of the spine to the right (as shown by his lower right shoulder) and ducking during his downswing with an opening of the club face. Both of these problems are caused by tightness in the right external oblique muscles. The problem has become chronic because these muscles are now bound together with microfibers, a mild form of scar tissue that cannot be stretched out. The microfibers can be released manually, which would restore his posture and swing mechanics to those he enjoyed at the Masters. 

Posture

Masters US Open British Open

These three photos show the change in Tiger's posture. Throughout the Masters, both of his shoulders were even. During the US and British Opens, Tiger's right shoulder was lower than his left.

The right oblique muscles connect the lower ribs to the hips. When the right obliques are chronically contracted and bound together with microfibers (a mild form of scar tissue) they bend the spine to the right, pulling down the right shoulder. The back muscles on the left side of the spine then contract to try to correct the problem, and often go into spasm, causing back problems.

While this problem of tight right obliques is common among golfers, it was not a problem for Tiger until the US Open.

Swing Mechanics 

A major principle in muscle physiology states that when two muscles can perform the same task, the tightest muscle will always contract first.

At the top of the back swing, the right external obliques are fully stretched as the golfer turns his shoulders as far as he can to the right. If the right obliques are tense and bound together with microfibers, they will be the tightest muscles in the body at this point.

When the golfer makes the decision to begin his downswing, the brain automatically fires the tightest muscles first. For most amateur golfers, the tightest muscles at the top of their backswing are their arm muscles. So most golfers start their downswing with their arms.

Prior to the US Open, Tiger started his downswing with his legs and hips, which is the most efficient use of the body. The muscles of the legs and hips are the biggest and strongest muscles, and produce the longest, straightest drives and iron shots. He started his downswing with these muscles because at that time they were the tightest at the top of his backswing.

If the oblique muscles are the tightest at the top of the back swing, the golfer will start his downswing with a ducking motion. This is due to the fact that when the right obliques contract, they pull the spine forward and to the right. That Tiger is now doing this can be seen in the following photos taken from the British Open.


  

Once the right oblique muscles contract, they remain contracted during the entire downswing, further pulling the spine to the right. This right-bending curve forces the clubface to slightly open prior to impact, sending the ball off to the right.

The following photos show that these same problems continued throughout the last round of the British Open.



Conclusion

Tiger Woods has developed mechanical problems with his golf swing that are a direct result of a physical change in his body: the shortening and contraction of his right oblique muscles.

How did this change come about?

The oblique muscles are very thin muscles spread out over a large area. It is easy to overuse these muscles. There are several possible scenarios. The first is doing a lot of sit-ups. Secondly, if the golfer restricts the movement of his hips, but wants to continue hitting the ball as far as he did before, he will compensate by firing the right oblique muscles, as these are the major muscles that rotate the shoulders during the downswing. Unfortunately, the right obliques, since they are so thin, are not up to replacing the bigger, thicker and stronger muscles of the hips, and can be easily overused.

The muscle soreness that comes from this overuse triggers a chronic contraction in the muscle. Microfibers, a mild form of scar tissue, then form around the muscle to aid in the healing process. Once the muscles have recovered from their soreness, the microfibers not only do not go away, they tend to accumulate over time, making the area progressively stiffer. Even if the golfer wants to change his swing at this point, it is very difficult to do, since the tight right obliques will always contract first on the downswing.

There are two ways to identify stiffness in the right obliques. One is to look at the golfer's spine from the back when he is standing on a level floor. If the spine tilts or curves to the right, the right obliques are tight.

The second method is to measure the expansion of the abdomen during inhalation. The abdomen circumference is measured at the belly button with the golfer lying on his back with his knees up and feet flat on the floor. The circumference is measured with a cloth measuring tape while the golfer is relaxed. Then the golfer takes a deep breath and the abdomen circumference is measured again. The expansion should be a minimum of 15% of the resting circumference. If a golfer has a 30" waist, it should expand a minimum of 4.5". If it expands less, the obliques are tight.

Again, it should be emphasized that Tiger hitting the ball to the right is a physical problem, not a mental problem. This is why this problem, which has persisted through two Opens, cannot be resolved by concentration, instruction or practice. Microfibers surrounding the obliques need to be released so that these muscles can easily stretch again. In this way, Tiger can start his downswing with his legs and hips, maintaining correct posture throughout his swing. Once the right obliques are relaxed, his spine will no longer curve to the right, and his clubface will remain square through impact.