Is swing coach Como the right fit for Woods?

By Brandel ChambleeDecember 1, 2014, 3:30 pm

Tiger Woods is the most malleable man in the history of sports. 

Since he turned professional in 1996 Woods has had four different swings and three different swing coaches. His ability to take such a variety of  theories, not to mention his own ever-changing ideas, and make them work well enough to elevate him to No. 1 in the world, is unprecedented in any sport. What athlete would change a method that gave him dominance and consistency? Only Tiger. 

Now he’s building his fifth professional swing with the help of a fellow by the name of Chris Como. 

Butch Harmon, his first coach, was a former Tour player who even had a win (1971 Broome County Open, an unofficial event). Butch's father was perhaps the greatest player/coach in history. While employed as head pro at Winged Foot, Claude Harmon won the 1948 Masters. He was the last club pro to win a major. He counted some of the most knowledgeable men in the history of the game among his friends, men such as Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Jimmy Demaret and Jackie Burke Sr., and they shared lifetimes of empirical experience with the Harmon family. As far as an education in the golf world goes, Butch Harmon went to Harvard. 

Woods’ second coach, Hank Haney, oversaw the swing that won 31 of 91 tournaments, the highest winning percentage over such a span in the history of golf. Yet Haney is reviled by many for writing a book about Woods that exposed his private side, sometimes unflatteringly. During Haney’s tenure with Woods, critics – myself included - hated Tiger’s laid-off position at the top and his out-and-around backswing. But what we didn’t know was that Haney was giving Tiger a swing that had a predictable miss. It might not have been as pretty as the swing under Harmon, but that predictable miss and Tiger’s iron play made Woods better than ever.

Can you imagine improving the golf game of Woods from 2000? In many ways Haney did. Maybe Haney never played the Tour, but his understanding of the need to have a one-way miss and the ability to give that to Tiger is an example of what is lacking in many teachers today. 

Sean Foley, Tiger’s third swing coach, in a 2012 video interview with Tourplayers.com, said that Tiger never won a major by leading in fairways or greens in regulation but “he got it done.” 

Perhaps Foley was taking a shot at Tiger’s previous coaches, something he had done in the past. In a 2010 interview with FoxSports.com golf writer Robert Lusetich, Foley said the Harmon-taught swing was “penal on the body and dependent on timing.” That is coach-speak for unreliable. In a November 2010 interview with Golf World's Jaime Diaz, Foley said of the Haney swing that “… as good as he is, as much work as he put in, the stuff couldn’t have been right or it would’ve worked better.” Better than a 34 percent win rate?!. Neither Harmon nor Haney ever claimed to be a student of the geometry of the swing, like Foley. Perhaps his point was, how could either of them know what the body or the club was doing at impact since they didn't use force plates or Trackman? 

But the fact is, Woods led the field in greens in regulation in nine of his 14 major wins; he led in driving distance in five of them and led in fairways hit in one of them. He got it done all right, from tee to green. Under Foley he never led in driving distance, fairways hit or greens in regulation in a single major. But thanks to Trackman, we know he had more “compression,” whatever that is. 

Foley has the same DNA as so many of his brethren who got drunk on the philosophy of “The Golf Machine,” the fabulously flawed book on the geometry of the golf swing, a book that has led to the spin-off of swing cults such as Stack and Tilt. All of them are based on the most inconclusive differences, ideas and opinions that cannot prove their theories to be correct. And the ideological conceit of geometric precision is where Tour players’ games go to die. 

Como is one the 40 top teachers under age 40, according to Golf Digest, which listed his price at $1,500 for a half-day (no hourly rate was listed), which made him by far the most expensive teacher on the list. This was BEFORE the Tiger announcement.

Outside of Woods, Como’s Tour stable includes Aaron Baddeley, Richard Lee and Jamie Lovemark (also a former Foley student who, like Woods, had a micro-discectomy). For the 2014 season those three finished 174th, 171st and 94th, respectively, in greens in regulation. Only Baddeley kept his card, and he could thank finishing second in strokes gained-putting. Considering the greens-in-regulation list goes only to 177 players, this is not a strong recommendation for the theories of Como. When you further consider that as recently as September, Woods was knocking swing coaches for not having any Sunday back-nine major championship experience, you can’t help but wonder if Tiger did his homework.

Reportedly Como is getting a masters degree in biomechanics from Texas Woman’s University. Sports biomechanics is about applying the laws of mechanics to human movement to understand and improve performance and to reduce injuries. That’s exactly what Woods needs, as his swing has lost its natural athleticism, which was a major source of his old confidence. And that’s to say nothing of the harm the swing he had was doing to his body. 

To apply biomechanics to golf, though, one has to study and tediously measure the movements of hundreds of professional golfers and then make comparisons and draw conclusions. This, as opposed to so much pseudo-science in this game, is real science. 

What one will learn in studying the biomechanics of great ball-strikers is that there must be a lateral shift off of the ball in the backswing and a corresponding lateral shift into the ball on the downswing. This is imperative and very much what Tiger was doing until 2010.  

Staying centered or hanging left at address causes the club to want to go inside abruptly off of the ball and it takes great effort to avoid it. Hanging left robs a player of width in the backswing and flow and rhythm in the downswing. With Woods’ phenomenal hip rotation speed, hanging left caused him to get stuck - coming too much on an inside path - on the downswing and hence his sometimes overexaggerated over-the-top move to counter this tendency. With the driver, more often than not his clubhead path was way out to the right with excessive forward shaft lean, and to offset this his spine tilted away from the target to the point of pain. 

If Como understands the way the bodies of the best players of all time moved and applies those principles to Woods, then his pupil has a very good chance of playing uninjured for the rest of his career and a very good chance of achieving his career goals.

Getty Images

Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship

By Randall MellJuly 15, 2018, 11:26 pm

Laura Davies confessed she did not sleep well on a five-shot lead Saturday night at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

It’s all you needed to know about what this inaugural event meant to the women who were part of the history being made at Chicago Golf Club.

The week was more than a parade of memories the game’s greats created playing in the USGA’s long-awaited showcase for women ages 50 and beyond.

The week was more than nostalgic. 

It was a chance to make another meaningful mark on the game.

In the end, Davies relished seeing the mark she made in her runaway, 10-shot victory. She could see it in the familiar etchings on the trophy she hoisted.

“I get my name on it first,” Davies said. “This championship will be played for many years, and there will only be one first winner. Obviously, quite a proud moment for me to win that.”

Really, all 120 players in the field made their marks at Chicago Golf Club. They were all pioneers of sorts this past week.

“It was very emotional seeing the USGA signs, because I've had such a long history, since my teens, playing in USGA championships,” said Amy Alcott, whose Hall of Fame career included the 1980 U.S. Women’s Open title. “I thought the week just came off beautifully. The USGA did a great job. It was just so classy how everything was done, this inaugural event, and how was it presented.”

Davies was thankful for what the USGA added to the women’s game, and she wasn’t alone. Gratefulness was the theme of the week.


Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open


The men have been competing in the U.S. Senior Open since 1980, and now the women have their equal opportunity to do the same.

“It was just great to be a part of the first,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Hollis Stacy said. “The USGA did a great job of having it at such a great golf course. It's just been very memorable.”

Trish Johnson, who is English, like Davies, finished third, 12 shots back, but she left with a heart overflowing.

“Magnificent,” said Johnson, a three-time LPGA and 19-time LET winner. “Honestly, it's one of the best, most enjoyable weeks I've ever played in in any tournament anywhere.”

She played in the final group with Davies and runner-up Juli Inkster.

“Even this morning, just waiting to come out here, I thought, `God, not often do I actually think how lucky I am to do what I do,’” Johnson said.

At 54, Davies still plays the LPGA and LET regularly. She has now won 85 titles around the world, 20 of them LPGA titles, four of them majors, 45 of them LET titles.

With every swing this past week, she peeled back the years, turned back the clock, made fans and peers remember what she means to the women’s game.

This wasn’t the first time Davies made her mark in a USGA event. When she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1987, she became just the second player from Europe to win the title, the first in 20 years. She opened a new door for internationals. The following year, Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann won the title.

“A lot of young Europeans and Asians decided that it wasn't just an American sport,” Davies said. “At that stage, it had been dominated, wholeheartedly, by all the names we all love, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, Sheehan.”

Davies gave the rest of the world her name to love, her path to follow.

“It certainly made a lot of foreign girls think that they could take the Americans on,” Davies said.

In golf, it’s long been held that you can judge the stature of an event by the names on the trophy. Davies helps gives the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open the monumental start it deserved.

Getty Images

Suwannapura beats Lincicome in playoff for first win

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2018, 10:49 pm

SYLVANIA, Ohio - Thidapa Suwannapura won her first LPGA event on Sunday, closing with a 6-under 65 and birdieing the first playoff hole to defeat Brittany Lincicome at the Marathon Classic.

The 25-year-old Thai player is the sixth first-time winner on tour this year. Her previous best finish in 120 starts was seventh at the 2014 Kingsmill Championship.

Suwannapura picked up three strokes over her final two holes, making eagle on the par-5 17th and closing with a birdie on the par-5 18th at Highland Meadows to finish at 14-under 270.

In the playoff, Suwannapura converted a short birdie putt after Lincicome hit her second shot into a water hazard and scrambled for par.

Lincicome shot 67. She had a chance to win in regulation, but her birdie putt from about 10 feet did a nearly 360-degree turn around the edge of the cup and stayed out. Next up for the big-hitting Lincicome: a start against the men at the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship.

Third-round leader Brooke Henderson led by two shots after six holes, but struggled the rest of the way. Back-to-back bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes dropped her out of the lead. The 20-year-old Canadian finished with a 2-under 69, one shot out of the playoff.

Getty Images

Kim cruises to first win, final Open invite at Deere

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 9:38 pm

Following the best week of his professional career, Michael Kim is both a winner on the PGA Tour and the 156th and final player to earn a tee time next week at The Open.

Kim entered the final round of the John Deere Classic with a five-shot lead, and the former Cal standout removed any lingering doubt about the tournament's outcome with birdies on each of his first three holes. He cruised from there, shooting a bogey-free 66 to finish the week at 27 under and win by eight shots over Francesco Molinari, Joel Dahmen, Sam Ryder and Bronson Burgoon.

It equals the tournament scoring record and ties for the largest margin of victory on Tour this season, matching Dustin Johnson's eight-shot romp at Kapalua in January and Molinari's margin two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National.

"Just super thankful," Kim said. "It's been a tough first half of the year. But to be able to finish it out in style like this means a lot."

Kim, 25, received the Haskins Award as the nation's top collegiate player back in 2013, but his ascent to the professional ranks has been slow. He had only one top-10 finish in 83 starts on Tour entering the week, tying for third at the Safeway Open in October 2016, and had missed the cut each of the last three weeks.

But the pieces all came together at TPC Deere Run, where Kim opened with 63 and held a three-shot lead after 36 holes. His advantage was trimmed to a single shot during a rain-delayed third round, but Kim returned to the course late Saturday and closed with four straight birdies on Nos. 15-18 to build a five-shot cushion and inch closer to his maiden victory.

As the top finisher among the top five not otherwise exempt, Kim earned the final spot at Carnoustie as part of the Open Qualifying Series. It will be his first major championship appearance since earning low amateur honors with a T-17 finish at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, and he is also now exempt for the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

The last player to earn the final Open spot at the Deere and make the cut the following week was Brian Harman, who captured his first career win at TPC Deere Run in 2014 and went on to tie for 26th at Royal Liverpool.

Getty Images

Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.