Somax Analysis of Tiger Woods
at the 2001 PGA Championship

A frame-by-frame videotape analysis of Tiger Woods at the 2001 PGA Championship shows some physical changes that could account for his performance and may, unfortunately, lead to some serious problems in the future if not corrected.

 

As you can see in the two photos above, taken Day One of the 2001 PGA Championship, Tiger tilts strongly to his right every time he lands on his right foot. This is something new for him since the 2001 Masters.

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.

 

As we look at photos of Tiger below from Day Four of the Championship, we can see the cause of this tilting.

The tilting is 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 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 muscles recover, the microfibers not only do not go away, but they tend to accumulate over time.The muscle remains tight longer after the soreness goes away. It is the accumulation of these microfibers that makes us become stiffer as we get older.

Tiger did not have this problem before as he had plenty of hip flexibility and turned his hips early in his swing. An examination of his swing mechanics at the Championship shows he is rotating his hips less, and rotating them later in his swing. As a result, he now pulls his head down during his downswing as he compensates with his stomach muscles to power the club.

The following photos, taken of his first drive on the Fourth Day of the 2001 Championship, show how much Tiger is using his right stomach muscles on his downswing. If you look at the first picture (upper left corner), you will see that the top of his head lines up with the top of the side panel of the white tent in the background. The second photo (upper right corner) shows Tiger at the top of his backswing. Since his right oblique muscles are tight, and can't be fully stretched out at the top of the backswing, Tiger is already dropping his head from where it was at set-up. Photo Three (lower left corner) shows Tiger's downswing, where his head is pulled down sharply by the right obliques. Photo Four (lower right corner) shows Tiger just after impact. His head is not only pulled way down, but also significantly to his right. It is this side bending to the right that forces his club face open just prior to impact, sending his drive off to the right.

The overuse of the right obliques on the downswing opens the clubface slightly at impact, pushing the ball to the right, which was a problem for Tiger on this shot and throughout the last three 2001 major championships.

Since a golfer also uses the stomach muscles during putting, tightness in these muscles can throw off his putting stroke as well.

The solution is to release the microfibers that have formed between his muscles to restore the flexibility he had before. This will not only help him control his club better, transfer the work of swinging back to the bigger and stronger hip muscles, but will also prevent future back problems.

Somax has worked with several tour golfers during the past few years, improving their flexibility by releasing these microfibers. As flexibility improves, so does performance. One pro improved his putting average from #113 to #1 in putts per round, and his ranking in sand saves from #125 to #2. Another increased his longest drive from 295 to 400, and a third shot the lowest score for a round (61) and tournament in the history of the LPGA.