Enough of the Steve Williams free for all. Let's get back to golf, and, specifically, to the most analyzed swing in the game. That's Tiger Woods's swing, of course. He'll start the Australian Open Thursday at The Lakes course in Sydney, he says he's getting his swing speed back, he's getting stronger, and he's ready to go. We won't really know the status of his game until he plays a full schedule in 2012, but his performance at the Australian Open and next week during the Presidents Cup in Melbourne will offer a pretty decent view.
I asked a couple of Canada's most prominent swing coaches to offer their takes on his swing. First up today is Jason Helman, the director of instruction at the Wyndance Golf Club in Uxbridge, Ont. Helman was honoured as the Ontario and Canadian PGA Teacher of the Year in 2010, and Golf Digest recently included him on a list of five prominent teachers in Canada.
Helman made it clear that he's not privy to any information from Woods's camp, and added that the former world number one is "perhaps the most guarded athlete when it comes to what he is specifically working on and the nature of his health or injuries." He added that changing motor patterns takes time, which Woods and his swing coach Sean Foley have said many times. With these caveats, here's what Helman told me.
"In my opinion, Tiger really needed to quiet his lower body and get stable with his footwork," Helman said. He likes the fact that Woods and Foley are trying to create a more biomechanically efficient swing. Part of this is trying to build a swing in which Woods's hips don't outrace his torso, which, Helman said, "places more torque and stress on his left knee." Woods has had all sorts of knee problems, including multiple surgeries.
Helman said that the result of Woods's hips outracing his torso has been that "stuck position," to which the golfer has often referred. His hands and arms get stuck behind him, forcing him to depend on timing to square up his clubface at impact. This can easily alter his swing path and lead to errant ball flight. Helman observed during the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August that Woods's lower body was synching up better with his torso during his downswing and through the ball.
"He was so much more passive through the ball with his lower body," Helman said. "This was clearly evident in his tempo."
What else? Well, Helman believes that Woods needs to keep his head level during his swing. When it drops, "a few epic failed swings and leg snaps result." Helman would like to see Woods focus on keeping his chest up during his downswing, to alleviate the head drop, and to see his arm plane a bit more upright to generate a better angle of attack into the ball.
Helman's comments came before last month's Frys.com Open in San Martin, Calif., where Woods tied for 30th, 10 shots behind winner Bryce Molder. He opened with 73 and then shot 68 in each of the last three rounds. He's worked hard since then, and, he says, without restriction. Helman figures if he can swing smoothly again, and recapture his putting magic, "look out."
Needless to say, the golf world will be watching Woods as he tries to raise his game Down Under.
ALSO FROM LORNE RUBENSTEIN:
Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association's first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada's Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and, most recently, he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 11 books, including The Natural Golf Swing, with George Knudson (1988); Links: An Insider's Tour Through the World of Golf (1990); The Swing, with Nick Price (1997); The Fundamentals of Hogan, with David Leadbetter (2000); A Season in Dornoch: Golf and Life in the Scottish Highlands (2001); Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); and his latest, This Round's on Me (2009). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at email@example.com . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein