Tiger's Swing Measures Better in 2008

While his opponents are getting worse, Tiger is getting better.

Our analysis shows that Tiger's swing is the most efficient it has ever been, while Phil Mickelson is 15% less efficient than he was last year.

But there is a hint of a possible problem.

Let's take a look at the numbers.

Down the Line

Here is Tiger down the line at address in 2007 and 2008.

Tiger Masters 2007                              Tiger Doral 2008

The important thing to notice is that Tiger's hands are much closer to his swing plane at address in 2008. Why is this better?

Let's see what he does at impact.

Tiger Masters 2007                                 Tiger Doral 2008

While his Spine Angle changes more in 2008 between address and impact (7° vs. 1°), Tiger has gone back to 'going ballistic' on his downswing, which we think will save him from the yips.

Tiger used to 'go ballistic' (let centrifugal force pull his arms and club into a straight line) back in the days when he won tournaments by 12-15 strokes, not by the small margin he does today. Here is Tiger in his prime.

Tiger In His Prime                               Tiger Doral 2008

You can also see, by looking at the two photos above, that Tiger used to rotate his hips more at impact in his prime.

The Gripper/Yipper Strategy

Tiger converted to the 'gripper' swing (holding onto the driver so tightly that he prevented any extension at impact) when he started working with Hank Haney, who swung the driver with the same 'gripper' swing and ended up with the driver yips. Why he taught the same swing to Tiger that got him in trouble, one can only guess.

But Tiger seems to have wisely abandoned the gripper swing, and reverted to his prior 'ballistic' swing.

There is some precedent for the gripper strategy. It was used by some of the best ballstrikers in history, such as Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino, all of whom had their careers ended with the yips.

Sam Snead Address                             Sam Snead Impact


Hogan Address                                     Hogan Impact


Trevino Address                                      Trevino Impact

It would be a shame to see a brilliant golfer like Tiger have to end his career with the yips.

Spine Angle

To go back to our original assertion, Tiger's swing is better because he brought his hands up higher, which minimizes the amount he has to change his Spine Angle during his downswing. The more your drop your hands while going ballistic, the more you have to change your Spine Angle. Your accuracy is determined by your Spine Angle, both from down the line and from the front. An example of someone who makes an extreme Spine Angle change is Phil Mickelson.

Mickelson Address                                 Mickelson Impact

Here you see that Phil makes a whopping 15 degree change in his Spine Angle between address and impact. Little wonder he has problems keeping his drives in the fairway.

Tiger, on the other hand, is now changing his Spine Angle only 7° (from 30° at address to 23° at impact, one of the lowest numbers on tour).

Front Spine Angle

Tiger is well-known for hitting it in the rough, particularly the right rough. The conventional wisdom is that long hitters are going to be less accurate. But that is not true. Iron Byron drove the ball 280 yards and kept it in a 10-yard circle. Iron Byron was able to do this not because it was a machine, but because of the way it was designed. There was not one degree of change in its Front Spine Angle from address to impact.

Changing your Front Spine Angle from address to impact (tilting your upper body to your right) opens your club face, which pushes the ball to the right. This forces you to square the club face with your hands in .03 seconds prior to impact. Not an impossible job, but not any easy one. If you overdo it, the ball goes left. The best strategy is to keep the same Front Spine Angle at impact that you had at address, and the club face will be square at impact.

Tiger hits his drives right because of the change in his Front Spine Angle. It used to be bad, and then it got worse.

Here is Tiger today. He has reduced his Front Spine Angle at impact to 20 degrees. This means he should drive the ball straighter than before.

Tiger Doral 2008

This is the scary part. Tiger is getting better, while his opponents are getting worse. We should see some big wins by Mr. Woods this year.

Could he get better still?

We think so. He could reduce his change in Spine Angle down to zero just by bringing his hands up a little higher at address. If he brought them up to the swing plane, he would not have any reason to change his Spine Angle and his accuracy would improve.

He could also tee up his ball in the center of his stance, and then would not have any reason to change his Front Spine Angle, and he could avoid the right rough.

We describe how this looks in our new book The Efficient Golfer.

Only one professional golfer has ever tried this simple maneuver, and that was Moe Norman, considered the best ballstriker of all time. He once hit 1500 drives in 7 hours, and they all stayed in the fairway.

From the front, Tiger would have exactly the same Front Spine Angle at address and impact.

For maximum accuracy, the only difference between address and impact is that your hips are square at address and 60° open at impact. With his Spine Angle and Front Spine Angle the same from address to impact, Tiger could be hitting all his drives in the fairway and his woods and irons would be even more accurate. Imagine what his scores would be like then.

The Problem

As we mentioned at the beginning, there is one dark cloud on the horizon, and that is that Tiger is spinning out on his front leg, which you can see here in these photos from Doral 2008.

You can see that at address, Tiger has his left foot flared out at the conventional 30°, but after impact he turns it out to 45°, and by finish he has turned it out 60°.

Why is he doing this?

We know that Tiger had problems with his left knee in the past. This was also the fault of one of his teachers, who taught him to hyperextend his left knee during his downswing to get some extra 'snap' on his swing. Years of hyperextension stressed the tendons at the back of his knee, and a protective, painful cyst formed, which had to be removed surgically. So, he may be turning out his left foot to reduce strain on that knee.

Or, he may be doing it because he is losing flexibility in his hips.

It's obvious looking at Tiger that he continues to lift weights. He was bigger than ever at Doral. The problem with lifting weights is that you get bigger and stronger by tearing individual muscle fibers.

Each muscle is made up of tens of thousands of individual, tiny muscle fibers. When you lift heavy weights (or run), you tear hundreds of these fibers, which is why you feel sore the next day after a heavy workout. Trainers, of course, will not tell you this. How appealing would it be to go to your next workout and hear your trainer say 'Let's tear some muscle fibers today, hey bud!”.

Part of the repair process is the formation of scar tissue, or microfibrosis. Scar tissue forms to immobilize the area so that it can heal, just like an internal cast. The problem is that the cast does not go away after the muscles have healed. In fact, they tend to accumulate over time, making people stiffer as they get older.

We know this happens, because we reverse the damage caused by lifting weights every day. Most of the golfers we work with have lifted weights, and the areas where they lifted the heaviest weights have the most microfibers. We release these microfibers with Microfiber Reduction, our special form of connective tissue massage. Here is an example show how Microfiber Reduction can improve internal hip rotation flexibility far beyond what stretching alone can do.

This golfer lost flexibility in his hips from running and lifting weights to 'keep in shape'. Like most golfers, he thought he was helping his game. Only when he noticed that he was losing distance and accuracy did he come to Somax to get some help with his swing. As with most golfers, we found his swing problems were mainly caused by microfibers binding his muscles together.

It's hard to swing a club when you are bound up with an internal cast.

It may be that weight lifting is finally catching up with Tiger. Most golfers start to lose flexibility from lifting within a year or two. But some golfers do not form microfibers as readily as the rest of us. Sam Snead was a good example. He was able to kick his foot overhead and plant his spikes into the top of a door frame at age 70, something that many 20 year-olds cannot do.

But eventually nature catches up with us. We think this may be happening to Tiger. We notice that he is a little stiffer when he walks. His swing is more restricted (but this could be by choice). But the main evidence of reduced hip flexibility is that he is turning his hips less at impact, and he is flaring out his left foot after impact.