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Why is Tiger Woods Struggling?

I’m Ryan Trengrove and teach over 2,200 lessons per year (the most in the area) at my indoor golf training center Golf Swing Prescription. I have taught over 25,000 lessons in my career. I have taught complete beginners all the way to expert level players competing and breaking 70. My youngest student is 4 yrs old and my oldest is 94. As a PGA Director of Instruction and Future “Top 100 Instructor”, I focus on helping students swing bio mechanically safe to prevent injury while also helping students go through the 4 Phases of Motor Skill development successfully.

When students arrive they are in Phase 1 / Unconsciously Incompetent, because they don’t know what is wrong so they come see me the expert. Then I film their swing with hi-speed cameras and collect ball flight data to measure their strengths and weaknesses. I am not interested in reinventing swings, but rather helping students improve at their weaknesses while keeping their strengths.
Once they see the problem but it isn’t fixed they are in Phase 2 / Consciously Incompetence. Using our patented benchmarking system, we put together a roadmap to get the student to their goals and then begin training. I prefer to call lessons training sessions, because once you know what to do but aren’t doing it I need to get your body to perform the new movement. To get your body to do this I must train you like a personal trainer does for better fitness.

Once we begin training, we are going into Phase 3 / Consciously Competence. My first teacher, Wayne Warms, told me it is process of elimination until you are left with a fundamentally sound golf swing. In phase 3, to improve your technique you need to think about your mechanics more than you will eventually want to. But if you don’t think about your form you won’t improve. Thinking about your form is different for everyone. I have some students that do just fine thinking about their form while scoring. Other student’s scores rise during this phase because they aren’t reacting to their target with a swing feeling. Instead they are making sure with lots of mental focus that they don’t do the same old swing that has kept them inconsistent, frustrated or even worse injured. This phase takes different amounts of time for every student. The time it takes for each student depends on how they practice. If a student is practicing with no feedback devices they will improve slow. If a student is practicing between training sessions using video they will improve the fastest. Some students practice using mirrors which is better than not having anything. These students will improve at a moderate rate. The important thing to understand about improving at golf is that your results are directly related to the quality of your training and practice. I have had a student go from shooting high 90s to 2 under par in 6 months. They trained with me twice a week and filmed themselves on the weekend for 4-6 hours on Saturday and Sunday. Then I have had a student who went from shooting low 100s to 78 in 3 years. That student only saw me twice a month over the 3 years and didn’t practice in between sessions. So make sure you set your expectation level relative to the type of training and practice you are doing.

Once a student is able to perform a fundamentally and biomechanically sound swing while being consciously competent, then we can begin to work on Phase 4 / Unconscious Competence. In this phase the student needs to use their thoughts to get their body to do the correct move, but pay attention to what it feels like so they can perform the same motion running on feel not thought. You can see below brain maps of students thinking about mechanics are bright red, while students focused on feel use a smaller amount of their brains.
Thinking About Mechanics.

So, Why is Tiger Woods Struggling? Tiger Woods is one of the most impressive athletes of all time. I feel fortunate to be alive at this time to have witnessed his dominant career. His work ethic and discipline is very impressive. How is it then that he has been struggling so much over the last year?  Why isn’t Tiger beating everyone like he used to? Will he ever return to winning like he used to and beat Jack Nicklaus’s Major Championship record? If you are a golf fan, you have probably been asking yourself similar questions. There has been a lot of public opinions about Tiger and his game lately, particularly since he has decided to take an undetermined leave of absence from the game. I thought I would share my insight since I have extensive experience in this area.
Tiger Woods has been working on evolving from the Reverse C swing to a more modern bio mechanically safe swing with good reason. The Reverse C is very hard on the body as is evident from the recent back surgery Tiger had. Here you can read more about the reverse C and modern swing:  .

When Tiger and Butch Harmon were working together they began to work on stopping Tiger from dangerous spinal tilt. If you go 1:55 into this video you will see how Tiger is working on keeping his lower body more stable on the downswing. Here is the link: . I do also believe that if Tiger kept working with Butch Harmon he would have been able to improve this. As we know, that is not what happened. As a PGA Director of Instruction, I constantly convey that consistency to training is paramount to steady progress.

Tiger Woods Struggle

Above you can see the difference between Tiger Wood’s spinal tilt and Davis Love’s spinal tilt. Davis Love used to tilt more to the right but has improved his spinal tilt to prevent injury so he can keep competing over 50. Tiger’s spinal tilt is around 70-75 degrees on the left, while Davis Love’s is 87 degrees. This is a lot better for Tiger. Years ago he used to tilt as much as 40 degrees with his driver (See Below). In this video you can see the progress he has made with his spinal tilt compared to the image below: .

Tiger Wood's Tilt

So why is tiger not scoring well? Tiger Woods is unconsciously competent at the Reverse C. I’m sure if he went out to just play golf and not think about his swing and instead picture shots like the old days he could break 70 in tournaments and win. The problem is that he would then be hurting his body and wouldn’t be able to keep competing. To stop himself from destroying his body he needs to go back to the consciously competent phase where he must think about his mechanics. This is why recently we haven’t seen Tiger score very well in tournaments. He is thinking a lot about how he needs to swing instead of reacting to the target with a feel for the shot he is picturing. I met John Cook and he told me when he plays golf he sees an image of the shot and target in his mind and is aware of the feeling in the club head. He isn’t aware of his body. This is the goal.

I have heard a lot of people say that they think Tiger should just go back to playing golf where he isn’t thinking so much. He could do this, but I fear then he would go back to the reverse C and hurt himself again. Then his career would be over. I think he is doing the right thing by taking a leave of absence. He needs to make a consciously competent modern bio mechanic swing that doesn’t injure his body. Once he can make this swing, then he needs to start working on turning this into an unconsciously competent motion. He used to practice full swings with 7 irons where he would only hit it 10 yards, then 20 yards and so on until he reached 180 yards when he worked with Butch Harmon. This is a great way to turn a consciously competent move into an unconsciously competent move. I have had lots of students use this technique to get to where they can feel not think.

The reason us human beings need to do this is because we need to develop new neuro-networks in the brain for motor skill development. Currently Tiger has very developed neuro-networks for the reverse C move. By doing slow aware practice his body will be able to distinguish the difference of what he was doing and what he wants to do. When his brain makes this distinction he will begin to build more neurons into the new swing neuro-network. If he tries to swing the correct way too fast his body will default back to where he has the most developed neuro-network. This is why hitting lots of balls fast on the range doesn’t reap much benefit. To develop motor skills you must go slow enough so you can give your body a chance to make the correct move. After enough repetition, you will then be able to go fast. This is how we as human beings learn everything with motor skills. Think about when you learned to type. Did you do it fast at first? Of course not! You did it slow for a while then gradually faster. Eventually you may have been able to type 50+ words per minute. I’m sure you get my point now.

I wanted to share my insight into this hot golf topic. I take many students through this process throughout the year. Once they get through the process, then they play the best golf of their life. This is why I am booked solid 3-5 weeks in advance and do the most golf lessons in Orange County, CA. If you would like to discuss this further please feel free to contact me: . If you would like to come in for training please call (949) 554-9926. We at Golf Swing Prescription look forward to helping you reach your golfing goals.

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