The Rebuilding of Tiger Woods' Golf Swing

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IFebruary 22, 2012

MARANA, AZ - FEBRUARY 22:  Tiger Woods hits a shot on the second hole during the first round of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club on February 22, 2012 in Marana, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

To understand where Tiger Woods is going with his current swing you have to look back at how his swing has evolved over the years. 

And it has been a lot of places. For someone who has had as much success as Tiger it's shocking how many times he's rebuilt his golf swing. 

This rebuilding has been the result of injury and the constant quest for unattainable perfection.

Let's take a look at the many changes in his swing and how his current one compares. 

Earliest Versions

Tiger's swing has been in the spotlight his entire life. That's what happens when you're a true prodigy. 

We don't need to break down this version of his swing, given that he was only two—except to say that swing is better than most you'll find on your local municipal course. 

Flash forward a few years, and Tiger's swing was destroying opponents in the amateur ranks. 

This was a quick, fluid and violent swing. It was also very loose. Notice his uneven stance when addressing the ball, his right shoulder lower than his left and his flying right elbow on the top of his back swing.

This was an explosive swing, and very much the swing of a youngster. He takes the club just beyond parallel at the top of his back swing, and then creates a shocking amount of torque as he flies through the ball. That is not the type of swing one can carry as their body grows older.

Tiger's first swing coach, Rudy Duran, in an April 2011 interview with Golf Digest, had this to say about Tiger's swing:

Tiger's swing was a tool, like a chisel for a sculptor...He didn't think about where his elbow was pointing when he used the chisel. He thought about the image he was seeing.

When any player is at their best, they aren't hung up on specific mechanics. The swing comes natural. Woods has lost that natural fluidity while changing his swing, but sooner or later he slips into the groove and can once again think "about the image he is seeing."

Tiger's first struggles from rebuilding his swing came after he really hit mainstream consciousness when he turned pro in 1997 and won his first major by annihilating the field at the Masters.

Most Dominant Addition 

Butch Harmon was his first swing coach as a pro. The two didn't start doing a lot of tinkering with Woods' swing until after he burst onto the scene. 

Harmon had this to say in Golf Digest: 

I agreed with Tiger about the flaws, but I wanted to do it a piece at a time. He wanted to do it all at once. I told him it was going to be hard to play through it, and that he might want to do what Faldo did with Leadbetter and basically take a year off. He said no, and in 1998 he struggled and won only once. He had a tendency to overdo changes. I had to be very careful what I told him.

Those changes took a bit to take hold, but once they did, Tiger went on to dominate the tour like no one before or since. 

It was in 2000 and 2001 that he won the Tiger Slam (four consecutive majors). He did this by driving the ball with consistency. 1999 and 2000 are the only years in Tiger's career where he has hit at least 70 percent of his fairways. 

Check out his swing from the 2000 U.S. Open, which was the most dominant performance the golf world has ever seen. 

Tiger is much more balanced in this swing and it is far more compact. Tiger's body and hip release is so unbelievably quick that it was always hard for his arms and hands to keep up. 

That led to any inaccuracy issues he had. To help this, he began not winding his hands and arms as far. 

This helped his accuracy tremendously, but it wouldn't be the last time he changed his swing. 

The Haney Years

In 2004, he made the switch in swing coaches to Hank Haney. Under Haney, Tiger began to flatten his swing. 

Previously, Tiger had had a very upright swing. Under Haney, it began to maintain more of the plane as it was when he addressed the ball. 

He also began to limit the movement of his lower body while keeping his hands higher and using less wrist cock. 

Tiger didn't come close to nearing the accuracy he had with Harmon. His best season in terms of driving accuracy under Haney was 64.29 percent in 2009, and that number is not as high as his worst with Harmon. 

Haney is not going to admit that it was the swing that was the problem. Haney, from Golf Digest

I think it's fair to say that Butch had a better body to work with than I did. With me, he started looking more like a linebacker than a golfer.

Haney also had a player that was dealing with declining health. Tiger began to have problems with his knee, and this led to yet another overhaul of his swing. 

Here is Haney, again from Golf Digest.

He was convinced that his golf swing was doing the damage to his knee. Everything had to revolve around saving his knee.

That led to more changes. Take a look at Tiger's swing in 2009. 

Here you see Tiger has quieted down his lower body movement even more. There is much less torque on the lower body. 

While this may have lessened the impact on his knee, it also disrupted his balance and alignment. This made him inconsistent at impact, and the changes didn't last long. 

The Newest Version 

Tiger went on his scandal-driven hiatus. He came back, and soon had another swing coach, Sean Foley. 

And now, we have yet another version of the Tiger swing. Foley describes what he has been trying to fix in Golf Digest:

What Tiger was doing wasn't efficient. He was losing tons of speed and power, some of the things that used to most separate him. And then he was getting more crooked. He couldn't hit the fairway because his alignments were not correct. Simple as that.

It has been a lengthy process to get this swing rebuilt, but the changes are finally starting to take hold. Check out some of the changes in this video:

Tiger is now much more on his toes. He is concentrating on staying over the ball, and he has put back a little more torque on his lower body.

However, he is staying quieter. His head is still, and there is far less lateral movement. He is moving his body in unison with his arms. They are not fighting each other, and his hands aren't falling behind his body. 

This is a beautiful looking swing, and it is one that doesn't apply any undo stress to any one part of his body.

Time will tell if he can get this dialed in and stay healthy, but all the fundamentals are there for Tiger to find great success with this swing.