How Tiger Got Back On Track

A frame-by-frame videotape analysis of Tiger Woods at the 2001 World Golf Championship shows a physical change in Tiger's posture that accounts for his improved performance after the 2001 US, British Opens and the PGA Championship.

Landing Right Foot        Landing Right Foot

As you can see in these two photos, taken Day One of the 2001 PGA Championship, Tiger tilted strongly to his right every time he landed on his right foot. This is something new for him since the 2001 Masters, but was also apparent during the US and British Opens.

This tilting is more than cosmetic, because everytime he lands on his right foot this way, the muscles in his lower left back must contract in order to prevent him from falling over to the right side. This constant work, for which the lower back muscles were not designed, can lead to spasm and lower back pain. In addition, the tilting applies more pressure on the right side of his lumbar discs, and can eventually, if not corrected, weaken the disc wall, leading to a protrusion which impinges on the nerves of the spine.  

If we look at photos below of his walking from the 2001 Masters tournament, we don't see this tilt at all.

Masters 2001                 Masters 2001 

As we look at photos of Tiger below from Day Four of the WGC Championship, we see the same tilting as we did in the 2001 US and British Opens and the PGA Championship. 

Right Foot—WGC         Left Foot--WGC.

Shoulder Drop—PGA    Shoulder Drop—PGA

US Open                       British Open

The tilting at the US and British Opens and the PGA Championship was the result of a right-bending C-curve in his spine, which can be inferred from the large difference in height between the right and left shoulders. You can see, looking at the photos above, that his right shoulder is quite a bit lower than his left, something that was only slightly evident at the Masters.

This tilting of the shoulders is not just from the hiking up of his left sleeve. It is evident on all the photos of him from the front during the US and British Opens, and the PGA Championship.

Right Oblique Muscle

The tilting of the spine, and the lowered right shoulder, are symptomatic of a tight, right oblique muscle. This thin, wide, flat muscle connects the lower ribs to the pelvis. When a golfer restricts the movement of his hips (from lifting weights or volition), he often recruits the right oblique to compensate. Unlike the hips, this muscle is not very large and can easily be overused. It becomes sore, and microfibers, a mild form of scar tissue, form around the muscle so it can heal.

Once the muscle recovers, the microfibers not only do not go away, but they tend to accumulate over time. It is the accumulation of these microfibers that makes us become stiffer as we get older.

When the right obliques are stiff and tight, the golfer tends to start his downswing with his right obliques. The causes a ducking motion and slightly opens the clubface prior to impact, pushing the ball to the right. Both of these problems were apparent in Tiger's swing mechanics during the US, British Opens and the PGA Championship. They were not apparent during or prior to the 2001 Masters.

Shoulder Drop—WGC

News reports and personal interviews indicate that Tiger suffered from food poisoning after dining out at the end of the PGA Championship. The body rids itself of tainted food by projectile vomiting or explosive diarrhea. Both rely on strong, repeated contraction of the abdominal muscles. Anyone who has suffered from food poisoning can attest that the stomach muscles are very weak after a bout of food poisoning. This is because of the repeated contractions.

Even though Tiger is still tilting to his right as he walks (which may lead to lower back problems in the future), the reduction of tension in the right oblique muscles from food poisoning was sufficient to restore his posture to what he enjoyed during the Masters.

Because the right obliques are more relaxed, Tiger does not bend so strongly to his right on his downswing, and does not open his clubface prior to impact. This has allowed him to keep his drives on the fairway, leading to his victory at the World Golf Championships. An examination of his swing mechanics shows that while Tiger is still 'ducking' during his downswing, the ducking occurs later in his swing. Tiger is beginning his downswing with his lower body, as he did during the Masters. Unable to rely on his weakened stomach muscles, Tiger reverted to his earlier, more efficient swing mechanics during the World Golf Championships.

At this point Tiger has two habits that should be corrected: the tilting while walking (which can lead to lower back and disc problems) and the ducking motion during his downswing. For now, his posture problem has resolved itself through food poisoning, along with the tendency to push the ball to the right as a result of tight right oblique muscles.