Tiger Woods’ decision to play in the Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale made headlines. It should have. The last time he played in this tournament was 13 years ago. Since then, Tiger’s swing has changed dramatically—and not for the better. Thanks to his broken swing, he’s lost distance off the tee, missed fairways in increasing numbers, and mis-hit dozens of drives into trouble, costing him strokes.
No one likes to see someone like Tiger struggle. But examining Tiger’s swing faults is instructive. Oddly enough, they’re similar to the most common swing faults that amateur players often make. These mistakes not only sap power from your swing, they also inhibit your accuracy off the tee. That’s not the way to chop strokes off your golf handicap or break 80.
Below we look at four of Tiger’s swing faults and provide golf tips on how to correct them:
Too Flat of a Takeaway
Tiger’s takeaway is too flat. It’s also too far outside. This forces him to make a much rounder swing than previously. It also forces him to set the shaft much flatter at an earlier stage in his swing, encouraging a slice. Previously, he swung the club on a more upright plane, with the club pointing slightly inside.
Tiger’s more upright plane encouraged a powerful, free swing—something we emphasize in our golf instruction sessions. If you’re slicing a lot off the tee, you may be imitating Tiger’s current swing. To correct this fault, keep the your arms closer to your body during the takeaway. This allows them to drop inside on the downswing and release freely, generating power.
Laid-off at the top
Tiger’s position at the top of the swing these days tends to be “laid-off.” In other words, the club points way left of the target and his wrist is slightly bowed. This set up closes the clubface. This means he’ll have to hold off on his release to prevent himself from hitting a pull hook. Previously, his club pointed parallel to his toe line and his wrist was straight, which is ideal.
To repair this flaw, you need to get more “neutral” with your clubhead. In other words, you need to position your club so it’s parallel to your toe line. If you’re a slicer, though, you may actually need to position the clubhead to the right of the target a bit. Correcting a laid-off position at the top increases your chances of squaring the clubface at impact more consistently.
Too Steep of a Downswing
While Tiger’s body is in front of his arms these days, his clubhead passes too far inside, well left of where it should be through impact. This fault promotes a drive that goes well left of the target, spelling disaster for the player. Previously, Tiger exhibited a classic release position. He swung more from the inside and worked the club away from his body after impact—a trait shared by many great ballstrikers.
If you’re hitting drives well left of the target, you need to start delivering the clubhead on an in-out path, as Tiger used to do. To do that, think of yourself as if you were in the batter’s box in baseball. With the pitcher’s mound directly in front of you, you want to think about starting the ball out to the right of the pitcher’s mound. This keeps your arms away from your body.
Of course, Tiger’s mistakes may be the result of the many injuries he’s suffered over the years. He’s had problems with his face, eyes, head, neck, wrist, leg, back, and Achilles heel. More importantly, he’s had quite a few problems with his left knee. In fact, he’s had surgery on this knee several times.
You may have physical limitations to your swing as well. They may prevent you from fully correcting the three big mistakes we discuss above. So you’ll need to come as close to correcting them as possible. Otherwise, you’ll continue to driving the ball into trouble. And that will not only stop you from breaking 80, it’ll pack strokes on to your golf handicap.