Read the March 21 online Golf Digest interview of revered golf instructor Jim Suttie, and it struck me that Doc Suttie and I were arriving at the same point from two different perspectives. My opinion is that Tiger’s body has been re-built in the gym by someone (Tiger?) who for some reason thought a football body (probably the body of a strong safety) was appropriate for a golfer. I think the result is bizarre and counter-productive. I think Tiger’s original swing (at least, his natural swing as refined by Butch Harmon) might have lasted quite a bit longer, had Tiger stayed out of the weight room and concentrated solely upon strengthening his legs and his core muscles and avoided building up his chest and arms. I am not sure about back and shoulders, but I think he could have worked them up a little bit without going for the football proportions he has achieved. But he could not resist the lure of trying to look bigger and stronger, and he built himself a body that is a sad combination of mis-matched parts. Now, with his top-heavy body, the stress created by his violent, rotation-driven swing is simply too much for his fragile little legs.
I have a second objection to Tiger’s swing. Whether we are talking about the Harmon Swing, the Haney Swing, the Foley Swing, or whatever the heck it is that Woods is now doing, my objection is the same. In my opinion, Tiger swings too damn hard. I have always thought so, even in the glory days circa 1999/2000. I always felt he was a much better player hitting a smooth 7 iron (even if it was a 200 yard 7 iron) than he was trying to kill a driver. Now that his swing (like his head) is a mixed-up jumble, the significance of the over-swinging is magnified. It was unnecessary when he had a natural swing; it is a killer now that his upper body is way too powerful for his lower body.
I recently read something written by Jack Nicklaus when he was a young pro, just starting to win big. He said, in a surprisingly elegant way, that he disliked the torso swing – of which he considered his arch rival, Arnold Palmer, to be the primary then-contemporary exponent. He felt that the golf swing should be a beautiful, graceful thing, rather than a blunt exercise in brute force. He thought the “swing” swing should be long and wide and a true swing, not a harsh, rotational “hit.” With a lot of hindsight, I feel free to observe that all Nicklaus was really describing was the difference between the more upright swing that he employed (and the more-eccentric swings of Payne Stewart and Colin Montgomery also come to my mind), and the flat swings of Palmer and Trevino and (today) Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan. (Though among the flat-plane hitters, only Palmer had a violent swing.) Certainly it seems to me that Tiger’s swing was fairly upright when he was young, got a bit flatter under Butch, got way flatter under Haney, and has moved just a bit back toward upright with Foley. But I do not think anyone would characterize Tiger’s 2014 swing – at least his swing with the driver – as being anything but flat, rotational, torso-driven.
I am not convinced Tiger’s original swing was unsustainable over the long term. I think he would still be winning majors if he had stayed with Butch, cooled it with the driver, and avoided the weight room – and whatever legal or illegal supplements and who-knows-what he has been ingesting. I think he is the victim of the same ego problems that turn other slender men into thinking that it is a good idea to bulk up in the weight room. In hindsight, I do not wonder at all why Tiger chose to swing too hard and ruin his body. Any more than I wonder why he did the same thing to his personal life.