Elite coach Dan Whittaker explains how Tiger Woods' swing has evolved between undergoing a fourth back surgery and becoming Masters champion
To take a bit of a deeper dive into how the Tiger Woods swing has evolved in the past year it’s worth looking back at how it’s developed over the years.
When he came out on the PGA Tour he obviously had a completely different body, he would get the club quite a long way across the line with quite a shut clubface but he knew how to deliver the club and he would have loads of speed through the ball. In his own words, when he was under a bit of pressure, he would “just hit it as hard as I can”.
When he began working with Butch Harmon they worked on shortening the backswing, getting the clubface in a more neutral position so it is more aligned to the left arm. Then on the way down Butch tried to quieten the lower half and slow down the legs and increase the speed of the arms to match the two up.
Then with Hank Haney the swing got a lot longer with the clubface more open at the top and, although he became a tremendous iron player for distance control, his driving became more crooked. This was different from when he was growing up when knew how to deliver the club from a shut position. Now there was more of a timing element to the swing.
Sean Foley got Tiger swinging flatter and a bit shorter and he would have to push up and out of the shot. So, only looking at it briefly, there have been a few incarnations of his swing.
So let’s take a look at the difference in his swing from the 2017 Hero World Challenge to the 2018 edition:
In 2017, after so much time out, Tiger did an amazing job to get it round. The swing was more built around just making sure he was injury-free hitting the ball. He looked more stood up to the ball and there was less flow to it.
Fast forward to this year and, while they are not miles apart, it is more fluid now. Here he is almost acing the 16th at Augusta:
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 14, 2019
Since his comeback he has been getting used to the new swing and getting more comfortable with it which is a huge thing when you’re under pressure.
Now there is a tiny bit more set at the top of Tiger’s swing, maybe a couple of frames longer, but the thing I’m seeing is that there is more separation in the transition with the gap between his thighs and knees being a lot bigger which, previously, that wasn’t the case.
Now his left knee is re-rotating outwards and this requires some torque around the spine so, to put that kind of power move in, he is more comfortable with his swing and body.
Post impact in 2017, when the club gets back to parallel, he was then getting upright just to complete follow through, now it looks so much more comfortable.
Tiger Woods swing sequence
Here is the most recent swing sequence available, from the Players Championship in March.
Around the time of the Masters I thought his swing was somewhere between the original and the Butch swing – their lateish set like he did as a kid, his arms were matching the body nicely, there was more flow and his arms sat on his shoulders and weren’t as high as the Haney period and looked blended to his body movement.
His driving is now a real asset and I love that he’s got a shape, that tight little cut, that he can rely on.
Tiger Woods swing: What you can work on
Even being one of the most talented players ever it has always taken him a while to work through any swing change and everyone can take something from this. If you’re going to make significant changes then it’s not going to be great in a month.
We are maybe four months to start of the season and, however much work you put in, there is a good chance that you will struggle as you won’t have had much chance of playing with it on the course under a bit of pressure.
So make your practice sessions a bit more stressful to speed up your own learning and be honest with yourself going into the process and manage your expectations. It won’t be a quick process and there will be quiet periods in terms of success.