Mitchell Spearman, with Farrell Evans, analyzes how Tiger's post-surgery full swing impacted his short game and contributed to him missing the cut at the Quicken Loans National. They also look at what he needs to work on to get better.
As many surgeons will attest, it was a great surprise to see Tiger Woods playing on the PGA Tour less than three months after undergoing back surgery.
What was not such a surprise was Tiger's poor short game during his rounds of 74 and 75 to miss the 36-hole cut by 4 shots. His scrambling stats were less than 20 percent: that's one in five up and downs.
I was at Congressional on Tuesday and observed Tiger hitting balls on the range. He looked fit and strong as ever, but his swing was not that familiar Tiger-esque motion. It was shorter, he was moving his head off the ball to the right. His transition was rushed, and his upper body was hanging back on the downswing.
Most of all, he was holding on to his angle way too long prior to impact.
One might say he was swinging gingerly, being cautious of his back, and that certainly is completely understandable. After the Wednesday pro-am, Tiger said that he adjusted his grip, making his left hand stronger, as he was leaking the ball out to the right (more likely the late release being the culprit).
However, as soon as Round 1 was underway, he started bogey-bogey and continued to rack up three more of them, offset with just one birdie. Certainly not the confidence boost he was looking for in his first competitive action since the final round at Doral in early March.
The famed golf teacher Harvey Penick used to say, impact for all clubs should be the same, whether you are driving, hitting irons, chipping or putting. The relationship between the grip end and head end of the club should be consistent, and if you have a fault, for example, in your driver swing, it will also show up in other departments of your game, such as your chipping.
Well, with that premise, Tiger's head moving to the right overly held off impact and would certainly make chipping difficult for him. By not having control over where the bottom of one's arc is and having one's hands too far forward at impact will cause even the most skilled golfer issues in controlling distance, spin and essentially one's touch around the greens.
As Round 2 progressed, it was evident that Tiger's game was just not tournament-ready. Driving was also becoming an issue with misses both left and right. However, the positives were that his distance was still there, hence he has been able to not give anything up due to his surgery. His mid-to-long iron shots were being struck with the authority and flight that we are accustomed to seeing from him.
At one point during the Golf Channel telecast Friday, six-time major champion Sir Nick Faldo reviewed a driver swing of Tiger's and pointed out that his transition (where you change direction from backswing to downswing) was rushed, missing an element of getting the club into the slot.
On this particular drive, there was the all-too-often high right shoulder spinout look follow through from Tiger, which is a trademark effect of trying to catch up with the right side (i.e. his head was too far back at impact).
Tiger said in his post-round interview Friday that he was happy that his body held up, and that he had speed when he needed it.
Tiger needs more reps. I just hope that they are less like the reps we saw this week and more like Penick said, "The same with all clubs."
Mitchell Spearman was David Leadbetter's chief lieutenant and worldwide Director of Instruction for 10 years, where he worked with the likes of Nick Faldo and Nick Price. Spearman, a Golf Magazine Top 100 teacher and the author of "Aim of Golf: Visual Imagery Lessons," now teaches out of Isleworth Country Club in Windermere, Florida. He works with Billy Hurley III on the PGA Tour.