Golf Digest (South Africa) - - The Golf Life Think Young/play Hard -

FIX­ING A ‘MA­NIP­U­LA­TOR’ ten­son was an ac­com­plished bad­minton and soc­cer player, and at 6-2 and 91 kilo­grams he pro­duced plenty of speed. But his ath­leti­cism and co­or­di­na­tion had cov­ered up what Cowen con­sid­ers one of the prime flaws in a tour swing. Sten­son was a “ma­nip­u­la­tor” – a player who re­lies on elite re­flexes to in­stinc­tively ad­just the club­face through im­pact to pro­duce a qual­ity shot. Ma­nip­u­la­tors can play great in streaks, but be­ing so re­liant on tim­ing causes more val­leys than peaks – and makes a player prone to col­laps­ing un­der pres­sure.

The 26-year-old ver­sion of Sten­son drove his legs hard at the tar­get in the down­swing and came down at the ball with a steep an­gle of at­tack. He re­lied on lots of hand ac­tion to save shots at the last sec­ond.And when he lost the feel of that fine mo­tor con­trol dur­ing his yip pe­riod, Sten­son’s misses were his­tor­i­cally ugly.A typ­i­cal tee shot wasn’t just go­ing into the trees. It was go­ing off the prop­erty, 200 me­tres from the in­tended tar­get.“Shock­ingly bad,” Sten­son says.Adds Cowen:“He had no con­trol of where the ball started, or the tra­jec­tory. He was hit­ting 5-irons and 7-irons the re­build would re­quire. “The only rea­son I’ve been suc­cess­ful as a coach is be­cause I went down all the blind al­leys my­self as a player,” says Cowen, who had two top-10s in 101 starts dur­ing 10 sea­sons on the Euro­pean Tour.“A lot of play­ers get lost in those al­leys. I did. I should have suc­ceeded, and I didn’t. But now I un­der­stand why I didn’t.”

Cowen and Sten­son tore it all down to the foun­da­tion and be­gan again, set­ting out to build the as­sem­bly-line ef­fi­cient swing that would pro­duce sin­gu­lar 7-irons that sound like gun­shots – shots that even other tour play­ers recog­nise as ex­cep­tion­ally pure. Sten­son learned how to cor­rectly use his pow­er­ful legs and a new pis­ton-like right-shoul­der move­ment back and through to pro­duce what Cowen calls “pres­sure” on the ball – a heavy, pre­cise strike that doesn’t rely on lots of hand ac­tion or tim­ing. “If you look at the me­chan­ics of the golf swing, you have to un­der­stand what the con­trol el­e­ment is,” he says.“How are you go­ing to con­trol the move­ment, with­out forc­ing the move­ment? It’s rep­e­ti­tion, rep­e­ti­tion, rep­e­ti­tion of the cor­rect move­ment.”

Sten­son was al­ways a worker, and he wore out prac­tice ranges from Rother­ham to Dubai, slowly build­ing what Cowen calls the “pyra­mid of learn­ing” – ba­sic fun­da­men­tals fol­lowed by dy­namic move­ments, fin­ished with power, pres­sure and men­tal per­for­mance.“It’s the only time I’ve ever done it with a player at that level, and it was very hard, be­cause there are scars,” says Cowen, who works with 20 mostly Euro­pean play­ers, joined by Walker out of their base an hour out­side of Manch­ester, in the north of Eng­land.“When you’re help­ing some­body, you have to leave them playable. It wasn’t playable for him when we started. But it was ei­ther take it or leave it, and Hen­rik de­cided he wanted it.”

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