Tiger Woods’ re­turn to com­pe­ti­tion showed prom­ise early and then, seem­ingly still fight­ing a for­eign swing, he was side­lined again with back prob­lems. Here, we chat to six lead­ing Aus­tralian teach­ing pro­fes­sion­als as well as a doc­tor on the likely causes


Jimmy Emanuel con­sults six lead­ing teach­ing pro­fes­sion­als, and a doc­tor, to find out what Tiger Woods needs to do to start win­ning again.

Tiger Woods hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since 2015 and at the time of writ­ing is the No.742 ranked player in the world. Yet he has still proven to be one of the ma­jor sto­ries in golf in 2017.

Woods’ much an­tic­i­pated re­turn to com­pet­i­tive golf from mul­ti­ple back surg­eries at the be­gin­ning of the 2017 wrap­around sea­son had the un­di­vided at­ten­tion of fans, spon­sors and his fel­low PGA Tour play­ers. The 20th an­niver­sary of Woods’ first ma­jor win at The Mas­ters in 1997 added to the an­tic­i­pa­tion.

While ex­pec­ta­tions had been set as low as they could be for a 14-time ma­jor cham­pion who changed the game of golf, golf fans’ an­tic­i­pa­tion grew with every piece of pos­i­tive news. Ap­pear­ing thin­ner than in re­cent years, Woods was rusty but showed promis­ing signs at his own Hero World Chal­lenge in De­cem­ber. His trou­ble­some back didn’t ap­pear to give him any sig­nif­i­cant trou­ble, and he was seem­ingly swinging the club un­hin­dered, al­beit not at the im­pres­sive speeds of his younger days. An ex­tended break over the Christ­mas-New Year pe­riod, meant more time for the me­dia and arm­chair crit­ics to pick apart his every move from the tour­na­ment in the Ba­hamas, with the hope­ful ma­jor­ity agree­ing the Amer­i­can might fi­nally be past the nerve in­juries that had plagued him.

Woods’ next ap­peared in late Jan­uary at the Farm­ers In­sur­ance Open, held at Tor­rey Pines in San Diego, a course Tiger dom­i­nated in the past and the site of his last ma­jor cham­pi­onship vic­tory, the 2008 US Open.

Af­ter a long, wet win­ter Tor­rey Pines was play­ing long and tough and Woods’ in­ac­cu­rate driv­ing left him too much to do with the short clubs, re­sult­ing in a missed cut. Woods was not alone in strug­gling in San Diego how­ever, with play­ing part­ners Ja­son Day and Dustin John­son also fail­ing to make the week­end. Play­ing with two of the cur­rent crop of top play­ers, Woods had clearly lost his abil­ity to over­power a golf course, but looked to swing the club in a way that would pro­tect his trou­ble­some back.

A long flight to Dubai to play the Omega Dubai Desert Clas­sic fol­lowed, where Woods was con­fi­dent his course knowl­edge would help him through the week. Woods dis­cussed his back and his new swing with the me­dia prior to the tour­na­ment.

“Whether my swing looks clas­si­cal, rhyth­mi­cal or it may look un­ortho­dox, I don’t care. As long as I don’t feel that nerve pain,” he said. Af­ter an open­ing round 77, where Woods never seemed com­fort­able with his game, the for­mer World No.1’s come­back was dealt a deaf­en­ing blow. Tiger with­drew on Fri­day morn­ing cit­ing spasms in his trou­ble­some back. The most dom­i­nant player of the mod­ern era has scarcely been seen since and at the time of writ­ing was an un­likely starter at The Mas­ters.

Tiger is by no means the first golfer to su—er back pain, but as with ev­ery­thing in Tiger’s ca­reer, his back is a hot but­ton is­sue. Many lay the blame on Woods’ nu­mer­ous swing changes un­der the guid­ance of Butch Har­mon, Hank Haney, Sean Fo­ley and most re­cently Chris Como. The now 41-year-old’s heavy train­ing and phys­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion, from a skinny teenager to the mus­cle bound Woods of the late 2000s, has also been heav­ily crit­i­cised as the source for much of his in­jury trou­bles.

We have con­sulted some of Aus­tralia’s lead­ing teach­ing pro­fes­sion­als and a doc­tor to get their opin­ions on Woods’ cur­rent and past golf swings, train­ing regime, as well as where they might fo­cus their at­ten­tion if they were for­tu­nate enough to spend even a mere 10 min­utes with per­haps the most dom­i­nant player the game has seen.


Watch­ing Tiger at the start of 2017 his swing is def­i­nitely di er­ent from the Tiger we know from the early 2000s. Through his work with Chris Como it looks as if he is re­ally try­ing to pro­tect his lower back (pic 1 & 2). The move is a lit­tle less ag­gres­sive through the bot­tom of the golf swing than we are used to and I think he is do­ing a re­ally good job with the body he has got to work with at the mo­ment.

When Tiger was younger he was tall, with not a lot of mus­cle on him and mov­ing re­ally quickly. The club was a long way in be­hind him on the down­swing and es­sen­tially his body wasn’t re­ally built for the way he was swinging it. Al­though di€cult to say cer­tainly for any ath­lete, not just Tiger, in­jury was prob­a­bly in­evitable.

When work­ing with a player like Tiger, who has back and disc in­juries, a lot of the work comes down to set-up po­si­tions and en­sur­ing the cor­rect ar­eas of the body have enough sta­bil­ity and ac­ti­va­tion in them – through the ab­dom­i­nal re­gion, the glutes, the big ar­eas that need sta­bil­ity in the golf swing. Set­ting that at ad­dress then mak­ing a move­ment where those ar­eas are work­ing e€ciently through the mo­tion, with Tiger try­ing to feel like his glutes and his core sec­tion of his body are re­ally help­ing out, rather than hin­der­ing him.

I would try and get Tiger’s train­ing to some­what com­ple­ment what he is try­ing to achieve in the swing. Build­ing up the strength in his key ar­eas and then learn­ing how we can use the strength in those key ar­eas to sup­port the golf swing he is try­ing to build. As with every stu­dent, as­sess­ing Tiger’s range of mo­bil­ity, sta­bil­ity, pos­ture and bal­ance would be key to then make his golf swing as e€cient as pos­si­ble. • Richard Wood­house is the cur­rent Queens­land and Aus­tralian PGA Teach­ing Pro­fes­sional of the Year. www.kd­vs­port.com

While there have been el­e­ments of the golf swing that have made Tiger’s back worse over the years, I don’t think it’s been his swing that has caused the prob­lem. I think you need to look at his weight and ex­er­cise pro­grams.

In hind­sight, when Tiger turned up as a skinny, young kid and was the long­est hit­ter on tour (pic 1), his train­ing and ex­er­cise regime needed to be based in longevity. How­ever, Tiger worked on his body more than any­one and his body changed and he bulked up (note the change to his body by 2006, pic 2). I be­lieve as a re­sult of that work, he didn’t hit the ball any fur­ther and there was noth­ing mea­sur­able in his golf game, which you could say that the phys­i­cal work­out did noth­ing to help his golf.

As time went on his body e ec­tively broke down – knee, back and a se­ri­ous Achilles in­jury, some of which are very for­eign in­juries for golfers. I would say from the out­side look­ing in, it has been the work he has done phys­i­cally on his body that has prob­a­bly put the stress on his body and caused a lot of those in­jury prob­lems.

Watch­ing Tiger swing the club at Tor­rey Pines, it was very ob­vi­ous he was pro­tect­ing his back and ob­vi­ously wasn’t gen­er­at­ing any­where near the speed that he used to. His swing didn’t look par­tic­u­larly ath­letic and he strug­gled with the shot go­ing right, which he has strug­gled with for some time.

In Tiger’s swing in re­cent years he has strug­gled with get­ting his arms stuck be­hind his body and he has re­lied on his ath­leti­cism to square the club­face (pic 3). This com­pen­sa­tion would have added some stress to his back.

Build­ing a golf swing that places less load on the back is key for golfers with bad backs to min­imise the stresses on the back. If Tiger were to im­prove his se­quence, hav­ing his arms work more e…ciently, so that his arms and body could catch up at im­pact, that way he could ac­cel­er­ate the club at im­pact with­out hav­ing to sit back on it and wait for his hands and arms to catch his body. • Dale Lynch is a for­mer Aus­tralian PGA Teach­ing Pro­fes­sional of the Year and has worked with sev­eral of the coun­try’s lead­ing tour pros. www.yarrabend­golf.com


PGA Teach­ing Pro­fes­sional based at Ade­laide Shores Golf Academy

The way Tiger swung the club as a young player where he hit it hard, hit the ball a long way and pro­duced as much spin as he could has placed a huge bur­den on his back and it has started to show up over the last few years in all sorts of in­juries. He needs to make some changes to his swing to en­sure he is around a lot longer.

I am sure he al­ready is work­ing on core-re­lated strength­en­ing. Pi­lates type ex­er­cises are also ex­tremely im­por­tant to ease the prob­lems with his back, as I be­lieve much of the golf swing gen­er­ally comes from our stronger mus­cles, par­tic­u­larly the core.

Some sub­tle changes in Tiger’s set-up would help to ease the pres­sure on the back. Specif­i­cally, nar­row­ing his stance a lit­tle, flar­ing his feet and stand­ing up taller. Through util­is­ing his core mus­cles more through­out the swing, I would try and have Tiger swing over qui­eter legs, to main­tain and look af­ter his body and hope­fully, ex­tend his ca­reer. Cre­at­ing less leg drive so it isn’t ex­ert­ing so much pres­sure on his spine as he moves through the ball is im­por­tant for Tiger.

At the end of the day you are try­ing to move the ball from point A to point B and then into the hole. From an en­ter­tain­ment per­spec­tive, watch­ing Tiger hit the ball a long way is thrilling, it might be time for him to fo­cus on swinging within him­self rather than try­ing to mus­cle the ball around. Look at some of the LPGA Tour play­ers, who still gen­er­ate a fair amount of club­head speed but don’t ex­ert so much en­ergy.

Tiger is a sen­sa­tional player who knows his swing in­side out, but I worry that all of Tiger’s work with var­i­ous coaches, means he doesn’t have the sim­plic­ity and con­crete swing thoughts he had as a kid. • Anne-Marie Knight is the 2016 South Aus­tralian PGA Teach­ing Pro of the Year. www.ade­laideshores.com.au

CHRIS­TIAN SMALL Head Teach­ing Pro­fes­sional, The Lakes GC, Syd­ney

Tiger through­out his ca­reer has chased the feel­ing of not be­ing stuck in his down­swing. He played great in 1997 with his arms stuck be­hind him, which allowed him to cre­ate a lot of speed and flip the club though im­pact. In 2000, when Tiger had his best year, in my opin­ion, he swung the club the best he has, his hands and arms were more in line with his right hip com­ing down pre-im­pact. From that time on his golf grad­u­ally got worse with a spike in 2005 and 2006 and then rapidly got worse

Around 2013, af­ter his work with Sean Fo­ley, who worked to get Tiger more on top of the ball with his arms in front, was when Tiger’s swing looked its worst. He was stuck but on top of the ball, not be­hind it like be­fore where he could flip it and catch up.

From watch­ing him at the Aus­tralian Open in 1996 to to­day, I don’t be­lieve Tiger un­der­stands how to tran­si­tion from the top of swing cor­rectly. In his book, Tiger says that from the top of the swing he feels his left knee straighten prior to im­pact, which is a flawed fun­da­men­tal con­cept. While Tiger was phys­i­cally gifted enough to make it work, it doesn’t make it right and it has a side-e†ect of get­ting stuck and you can hurt your­self, like Tiger did. This is where his stuck feel­ing has come from. With the chance to work with him for even just 10 min­utes I would talk to him about the right way to tran­si­tion to get his arms in front of the body in a way where he is not stuck, like he was with Fo­ley.

In his cur­rent swing, his hips and body are ro­tat­ing far too early in the down­swing, caus­ing the club to get stuck be­hind him re­sult­ing in a spin­ning out feel­ing, in essence still putting strain on his back al­beit in a di†er­ent way to how his swing with Fo­ley did. I would ex­plain to Tiger how to tran­si­tion cor­rectly. From the top of the swing there should be a push down feel­ing to the left toes, which is a lit­tle bit more closed o†, which al­lows the arms to get down more in front of his body and then to ro­tate out of that place. • Chris­tian Small is a AAA-ac­cred­ited PGA of

Aus­tralia teach­ing pro­fes­sional.


Head coach Pittwa­ter Golf Cen­tre, Syd­ney I think Tiger’s cur­rent swing is very good and has im­proved out of sight. While I be­lieve he hasn’t im­ple­mented all the changes he is mak­ing and it will con­tinue to im­prove, his swing looks to be a more free-flow­ing type of ac­tion again. He is swinging the club more around his body and the swing is more cir­cu­lar than what he was in the past.

Pre­vi­ously, Tiger got very short, stilted and had too much right lat­eral side bend in his back­swing, which put sim­ply is too much tilt away from the tar­get. This caused him to get jammed com­ing down and through (pic 1), with his hips jammed for­ward so he couldn’t keep ro­tat­ing, which I be­lieve hurt his back more than any­thing.

He still has too much tilt away from the tar­get (pic 2) in my opin­ion. I would get him to keep his spine more up­right – par­tic­u­larly at the top of the back­swing, and then he could keep turn­ing around, with a lit­tle more clear­ance at im­pact he could take a lot of the pres­sure of his spine. Play­ers like Ja­son Day and Adam Scott are good ex­am­ples of be­ing very up­right with their spines.

If the spine is up­right, not tilted away from the tar­get, then through the legs turn­ing, the shaft will then shal­low back on to a 45 de­gree an­gle to the ground and he can ro­tate around that with­out pres­sure on the spine.

Prepa­ra­tion is im­por­tant for Tiger. He is over 40 now, and his body won’t re­spond like it did when he was 21. Apart from him ob­vi­ously prac­tic­ing hard like he does, I don’t be­lieve he plays enough tour­na­ment golf.

In the past he hasn’t allowed him­self to get tour­na­ment tough, work­ing to put a score on the board. When he was play­ing great pre­vi­ously he got away with it, but it is very di‡cult to get match fit with­out play­ing matches. • David Saun­ders is a AAA-ac­cred­ited PGA of

Aus­tralia teach­ing pro­fes­sional.


Head teach­ing pro­fes­sional at Com­mon­wealth GC, Mel­bourne

Tiger was the best golfer in the world bar none, prob­a­bly the best of all time. He ei­ther got bored or he just thought he could get bet­ter and bet­ter and in his quest to get bet­ter he got worse.

If you look at where Tiger is now I think he is just con­fused. Tiger in his prime moved o the ball a lit­tle more lat­er­ally, more into his right side in his swing and his arms were more up­right, at times he even ap­peared a lit­tle crossed over at the top. Whereas with Hank Haney and Sean Fo­ley he was laid o .

In his cur­rent swing, I like the plane of his arms and the shaft, par­tic­u­larly with driver, more than in his time with Haney and Fo­ley. It looks now like he will get his driver more un­der con­trol. To work with Tiger, you would have to sit down with him and work out what he is able to do phys­i­cally. The num­ber one thing I would want to do as a coach would be to em­power him to make his own de­ci­sions and run his own race. I would want to help him find a swing he could com­pete with, not fol­low any one method of swinging the club. I would get Tiger hit­ting golf shots, find out what golf shot he can’t hit, what’s the hard­est shot to hit and ex­plore ways of get­ting him to hit those shots. There is no one in the world who has a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of what it takes to win and how to con­trol their emo­tions than Tiger Woods. My only queries are if he knows how to win ugly and if he is go­ing to be sat­is­fied with that. If Tiger is to come back he has to learn to win smart rather than dom­i­nat­ing. • Sandy Jamieson is a AAA-ac­cred­ited PGA of Aus­tralia teach­ing pro­fes­sional. www.jamogolf.com


Per­sonal trainer and doc­tor When deal­ing with any in­jury, par­tic­u­larly a ma­jor one, approach to treat­ment is cru­cial. Just look­ing at the body when deal­ing with ma­jor back is­sues, is a small seg­ment and you have to look at the in­di­vid­ual holis­ti­cally. What Tiger must realise is his body has changed and changed for­ever. His val­ues, be­liefs and thoughts around his in­jury and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion need to be looked at and whether his ex­pec­ta­tions are re­al­is­tic with his body’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties. For Tiger this may re­late to train­ing, prac­tice or his golf swing. While we don’t know when Tiger’s back prob­lems be­gan, the re­al­ity is, the hu­man body is pretty sim­ple, and un­der­stand­ing the cause of in­jury is cru­cial in the approach to re­cov­ery. Us­ing the ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­ogy prin­ci­ple of Gen­eral Adap­ta­tion, which put sim­ply, is to in­crease strength, mus­cles and joints must be placed un­der stress. Ini­tially the mus­cle will be weaker, with rest the mus­cle will be­come stronger. With in­jury, the stress ap­plied to the body is greater than its ca­pac­ity to with­stand stress, with­out am­ple re­cov­ery, the body may never re­turn to its base­line strength.

Watch­ing Tiger hit balls at the 2005 Mas­ters (pics 1 to 8), the ro­ta­tion and torque go­ing through his spine was in­cred­i­ble. While im­pres­sive to watch how far he hit the ball and the ball flight, the hu­man body only has a ca­pac­ity to get it­self into cer­tain po­si­tions and done re­peat­edly is when you start get­ting de­gen­er­a­tion of joints. The wear and tear on the body even­tu­ally has to give. The swing at the time was not sus­tain­able for the next 20 to 30 years of Tiger’s ca­reer.

Mov­ing for­ward the an­swer isn’t a sim­ple one. Generic mus­cle build­ing and core work don’t nec­es­sar­ily ap­ply. As­sess­ing Tiger’s core and back and un­der­stand­ing what biome­chan­i­cal de­fi­cien­cies he may have would be cru­cial in the tai­lor­ing of a pro­gram that ad­dresses them sys­tem­at­i­cally. • An­thony Bloom­field is Aus­tralia’s only per­sonal trainer with sev­eral med­i­cal de­grees, in­clud­ing Bachelors of Sci­ence (Phys­i­ol­ogy / Phar­ma­col­ogy), Medicine and Surgery. www.an­tho­ny­bloom­field.com.au


DALE LYNCH PGA of Aus­tralia Teach­ing Pro­fes­sional with Ban­nLynch Golf based at Yarra Bend Golf in Mel­bourne.

RICHARD WOOD­HOUSE KDV Academy Di­rec­tor of In­struc­tion on the Gold Coast

Woods was frus­trated with his game in Dubai be­fore with­draw­ing due to back spasms.

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