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.

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Key stats: Woods 42 for 44 with 54-hole lead

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 22, 2018, 10:53 pm

Tiger Woods shot a 5-under 65 Saturday, and he will take a three-stroke lead into the final round at the Tour Championship as he looks for win No. 80. Here are the key stats for Woods' round.

• 12 under par; 65 in third round; lowest round by anyone in field on Saturday

• Birdied six of first seven holes (including five in a row on Nos. 3-7)

• Longest birdie streak since 2012 at TPC Boston (six in first round)

• 45th career outright 54-hole lead on PGA Tour (won 42 of previous 44)

• 95.5 win percentage with outright 54-hole lead (PGA Tour since 2013: 42 percent)

• Previous 54-hole lead/co-lead – 2013 WGC-Bridgestone (his last win)

• 23-for-23 converting 54-hole leads of three shots of more on PGA Tour

• 42 years old; Sam Snead was 47 when he won his 80th PGA Tour title

• Sunday is 1,876 days since last win (2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational)

• Two-time winner of Tour Championship (1999 in Houston, 2007 at East Lake)

• Trying to become first player to win Tour Championship three or more times

• Projected to move to 13th in World Ranking with win (most likely position)

• Seeking 13th PGA Tour win holding lead/co-lead in all four rounds

• Last PGA Tour win with lead/co-lead all four rounds – 2013 at Doral

• Leads field in strokes gained: putting through three rounds

• Won each of last three instances leading field for week in strokes gained: putting

• Leads field in scrambling through three rounds (14-for-18)

• Third in field in strokes gained: tee to green through three rounds

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Woods leads by three; McIlroy in final group

By Doug FergusonSeptember 22, 2018, 10:41 pm

ATLANTA – Tiger Woods is three shots ahead and one round away from capping his comeback season with a victory.

Woods played the most dynamic golf he has all year with six birdies in his opening seven holes, building as much as a five-shot lead before he cooled off for a 5-under 65 and a three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy in the Tour Championship.

He has the 54-hole lead for the first time since his last victory in 2013 at the Bridgestone Invitational. He has never lost an official tournament when leading by more than two shots.

Woods has never been in better position to show he's all the way back.

It will be the first time Woods and McIlroy (66) play in the final group Sunday on the PGA Tour.

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Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 22, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tiger Woods fired a 5-under 65 on Saturday to build a three-stroke lead over Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy at the Tour Championship. We tracked him.


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Highlights: Tiger fires 65, takes 3-shot lead at East Lake

By Nick MentaSeptember 22, 2018, 10:25 pm

Following a Saturday 65 at East Lake, Tiger Woods will take a three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose into the final round of the Tour Championship.

Woods, 12 under for the week, will be paired with McIlroy in the final round on Sunday, as he hunts his 80th PGA Tour victory and his first win in five years.

The 14-time major winner ran away from the field early, making birdie on six of his first seven holes to go ahead by as many as five.

Woods immediately claimed the outright lead with a birdie at No. 1, whipping the Atlanta crowd into an early frenzy.

Following a 4-foot par save at the second, Woods moved ahead by two and reached 9 under par when he played this approach from 144 yards and sank this 8-footer for birdie at the third.

One hole later, Woods reached double digits at 10 under par when he poured in a bending 21-footer that just crept over the lip.

He made it four birdies in his first five holes when he bombed a 320-yard drive, wedged to 7 feet, and converted again.

He looked in danger of not capitalizing on his first crack at a par-5 after he came out of a fairway wood on his second shot, but a splash from the bunker and a make from 6 feet gave him his fifth circle in six holes.

He went Vintage Tiger at the seventh, playing this fairway bunker shot from 172 yards to 5 feet, setting up his sixth birdie in his first seven holes and advancing him to 13 under, five clear.

Looking to make the turn in 29, Woods instead missed the green at the par-3 ninth, failed to get up and down for par, and had to settle for 5-under 30.

Following pars at 10 and 11, he started looking this approach up and down at the 12th, leading to his seventh birdie of the day.

Woods saw his lead decrease from five to three when he bogeyed the par-4 16th and Rose birdied. Woods missed the fairway and green and then failed to pull off an aggressive flop shot up a steep slope.

Woods looked in position to pick up one more stroke at the par-5 18th, but proved unable to get up and down for birdie from the back bunker. Instead, he wrapped up a closing par and back-nine 35.