What Would Earl Say?

 - by Kelvin Miyahira

Bethpage Black, the site of the 2009 US Open was truly a difficult layout. Even with rain-soaked greens that held and even allowed shots hit from the thick rough to spin back, the course was still a monster. With several par 4’s measuring over 500 yards and with trees, bunkers, thick rough and bumpy greens, the course played up to it’s billing.

But what happened to Tiger? One writer said that Tiger got the short end of the stick by playing early Thursday morning when the conditions were the worst. That might be true but what really cost Tiger was his ball striking during the first round. His tee shot on the very first hole was about 50 yards left of the fairway according to the announcers.

Certainly this exemplified the struggles he was having with his “new” swing. But as a real trooper and true believer, he stuck to his guns. Though struggling, he kept on doing the Haney Post Up swing but as the pressure ratcheted up, he began to play the game like the old Tiger.

Especially on the back nine of the final round on Monday, Tiger just got tough and decided to play on his instincts. He stopped all mechanical thoughts and he reverted to the “old Tiger” swing and really played well from tee to green. His birdie putts just wouldn’t fall and his normally magical short game deserted him in critical times.

It was a tough loss for him but certainly one that he can live with.

2009 British Open

In the next major Tiger shows up at the British Open once again committed to the Haney post up past the chi line swing (Shall we call it the Haney PU swing?). The Haney PU swing fails him again. He went 7 over par in 6 holes starting on the 8th hole on Friday’s round. He went bogey, bogey, double-bogey, par, bogey and finally double-bogey on the 13th hole.

On one hole he pop flies a 3-wood off the tee less than 200 yards. On the next hole he hits it 30-40 yards right and loses a ball in the thick rough despite scores of people looking for his ball. Result? Missed cut.

Also, Tiger was averaging a whopping 286 yards on the hard, rolling fairways of Turnberry. Although it might be argued that he hit irons off the tee on the holes measured, it still was shorter than the tour average of 288 yards.

He hit just barely over 50% of the fairways, 15 out of 28 fairways at the Open. This year he’s ranked 82 in driving accuracy. That’s a far cry from the guy that once led the tour in total driving, combining both driving distance and accuracy.

Is it possible that the Haney PU swing is both shorter and less accurate?

What would Earl say?

One can only wonder what Earl Woods, if he were alive today, would say about Tiger’s current swing. Somehow he knew what it would take to get Tiger to #1 in the world. He developed a plan and executed it perfectly. He was sure that Tiger has early brain imprinting by having Tiger sit in the high chair while Earl hit golf balls into a net in the garage. He taught Tiger to be responsible for doing homework before he could practice. He made sure Tiger had a great short game, awesome putting, unparalleled mental game besides his powerful golf swing. He helped to map out the goals for Tiger and how he was to achieve them.

When he thought Tiger needed a better golf instructor than his childhood teacher, he sought out the best. Only the best for Tiger would do. Since Butch Harmon was the coach to Greg Norman, the #1 golfer in the world at that time, he would be the logical choice.

Did Butch deliver? Oh yes. He sure did and developed Tiger from a long and somewhat uncontrolled hitter into a much more refined player capable of winning on wide-open courses like Augusta used to be or tight, thick rough lined fairways of the US Open. The key to his success was that no matter what Butch did to his arms, hands or plane, he never tried to slow down Tiger’s powerful spine engine, he enhanced it. In other words, he let the Ferrari be a Ferrari.

And Haney didn’t do much to alter it either……….until now. Though in his mind, it wasn’t the “optimal” way to swing the club, he allowed Tiger to retain the dynamic, powerful body movements that had brought him to the top of the juniors, amateurs, collegiate and then professional golfers.

But then a bad thing happened on route to breaking Jack Nicklaus’ records. He got injured. Tore his ACL and broke a bone in his leg. What ensues is surgery and 8 months of rehab………and changes. Finally, it seems, Hank has a reason to “fix” Tiger’s body movements. Backed up by the medical profession, rehabilitation therapists and the supposed “performance experts” they all told Tiger that he must change his swing or risk re-injuring the leg.

So instead of talking about how powerful his swing is, he talks of stability and weight transfer. How ironic?

Tiger From Golf Digest article

Just for fun, here are some quotes from Tiger in the June 2009 issue of Golf Digest. Let’s try to read between the lines.

“My reconstructed left knee enables me to finally make the swing that my instructor, Hank Haney and I have been working on for years. That’s because my legwork is so much better with a knee that doesn’t shift all over the place and is pain-free for the first time in 10 years.”

Translation: My knee is healthy but everyone around me is afraid that I’ll injure it again.

“This is something I really couldn’t do before. I’m able to make this lateral move by shifting my hips forward instead of backing them up through the hit – a habit I’d developed to protect my knee from further injury and, quite frankly, because it hurt like heck sometimes when I didn’t.”

Translation: I am now able to move past the chi line and using some old guy’s idea of “correctness” in the golf swing. Also, I always snapped my left leg straight, even as an amateur and a junior golfer but now people tell me it’s not good for me so I won’t do it anymore.

“Another difference is, now I can really post up: my left leg stays flexed into impact and straightens in the follow through. Before it would straighten well before then. This better leg action allows a natural release and extension down the line.”

Translation: Haney says if I stall my lower body and post up on my left leg that I will release the club better.

Maybe in your magical dream world Tiger. But in the real world, you’re hitting it shorter, less accurately and relying on your short game to try to keep you competitive. You are a tremendous athlete but you’re not so good that you can take out the Ferrari engine, put in a Prius engine and still be great. Want the evidence?

Tiger 2008 vs 2009

The Haney PU swing is really a window into the mind of Haney. While Haney is a self-professed expert on Ben Hogan’s swing, perhaps he is more an expert on the swing of Mark O’Meara and uses O’Meara as the swing model? Check this out.


Geez, Tiger is already sliding a little farther left than O’Meara. A little past the chi line already.


More dynamic than Mark but sliding.

Tiger’s still sliding more than Mark.



Same early roll over of the hands.

Same great hip stall.


Early folding of the left arm. Not much movement in his lower body.

So what’s the logic Tiger? You’ve got 14 majors and you’re copying your friend Mark who’s got 2 majors. Hmmmmm. Isn’t that like Monet learning to paint from an art professor at your local university?

Need more evidence of wrong track?


Just look at the left leg angle of Tiger from 2008 vs. the Haney PU swing. From US Open 2008, his left heel slides back towards the right foot in pure, elite, athletic form.

Now his left leg is totally sliding forward and he’s rolling to the outside edge of his left foot. This is sort of like Jack Nicklaus’ foot movements AFTER being “taught” a less athletic swing.

In 2008, Tiger’s left leg straightened, his left foot rotated and his spine engine was firing on all cylinders so his arms had the possibility to straight and stable. The Haney PU swing has shut down his spine engine to the point that his left arm cannot stay straight and must fold early. Ya think folding early is better?

With his engine firing in 2008, his hands stay in that stable bowed position longer. Now, with a hip stall, his left wrist rotates under earlier. Does that sound like a hook waiting to happen? It’s a great O’Meara swing but is that desirable? Does Tiger want to wait till he’s 43 years old to win another couple of majors?

For Planeologists only

He’s just a bit flatter now vs. 2008.

He was right on the money in 2008. Now, with the Haney PU swing, he’s got the club a little too flat and behind him. As Tiger slides too far past the chi line, you can also see how it has affected his ability to rotate his spine engine. In traditional golf jargon, he cannot clear his left side as easily. This is the block waiting to happen. Without a fast rollover of the hands, it’ll go right.

Notice Tiger is losing his “spine angle.” With this target view in mind, sliding hips can only move slightly diagonally to right field. Some would call this “hip thrusting” as his right hip is pushing out towards the ball instead of being pulled rotationally around.

The hip slide hinders hip rotation and outward movement of the hip obstructs the correct path of his hands. See the next photo.

Slider Awareness Test

Try this exercise at home. Take your address position and then walk back towards a wall until your rear is slightly touching the wall. Without a club, take your backswing and then try to slide your hips past your left leg. Can you turn? What’s your shoulder position looking like? Feeling closed and tilted to the right?

Unless you’re from another planet, the only way to get to the ball is to let your hips move away from the wall and that is the only way to get your body to turn. Dysfunctional? Yes. The image I have of this is a wobbly corkscrew spinning up.

And that is precisely what Tiger looks like these days.

Isn’t he swinging his arms way out to the right? Due to the hip thrust/slide, his hands have nowhere to go but out and up.

And good here in 2008. Now what’s wrong with his new position? Doesn’t look anything like the classic Ben Hogan follow through.  

The bottom line is that this swing is relying on perfectly timed roll of hands to stop it from blocking right. If he over rotates or rotates his hands too fast then the ball will go left. It’s Military golf (left, right, left, right) not Tiger golf.  

Also, the harder he swings, the more difficult it is to get the timing right. Sergio Garcia averaged 315 yards the first two days at the Open. Is he going to give up that kind of yardage to his competitors?

Perfect Storm

But maybe Haney’s PU swing is not the only problem Tiger is facing. He is also dealing with eight months of rehabilitation “training.” This rehabilitation training was important for his recovery from the knee surgery. But probably for the first time in his life, Tiger did not do any explosive movements. That’s eight months of flexibility, strength and cardiovascular training.

None of this training is, by any stretch of the imagination, as fast as him pounding 300+ yard drives. Thus, a little loss of speed (caused by adaptation to the slow training) should be expected. He could have avoided this speed reduction (it’s never too late) if he would understand speed training (of course his team should know this but they obviously don’t).

A Plea

Please Tiger, figure this out. Your swing will not ever be as powerful and accurate without your tremendous spine engine movements of the past. Go back to your old Ferrari swing.

Now is not the time to be committed to a golf swing or a methodology that has been tried many times before and with non-Tiger results. This “new” swing is not anything new. It is the swing of journeyman pro that won majors 43 years old, not a superstar swing that can dominate the tour. The Haney PU swing has shown little ability to hold up under major championship conditions. Working harder on it will lead to more mediocre results and frustration. This places undue pressure on your short game/putting and as we have already seen, it’s taking a toll.

Where is the Tiger that won four consecutive major championships? Where is the Tiger that won the US Open by a margin of 12 strokes? You’re physically healthy but your swing is suffering from a case of hip stallitis and you’re being transformed into a WUT swinger.

This isn’t good for you and you know it. Listen to that voice inside your head. It’s Earl talking.

Thanks to Mark Newcombe of Visions in Golf for use of the 2009 pictures of Tiger. He has a lot of great high-resolution photos of Tiger and other PGA and European tour golfers on his site at www.visionsingolf.com.