Like every top teacher, Dr. Jim Suttie has a take on Tiger Woods' back trauma, and how it could be related to his swing. But Suttie is more than a Top 50 instructor and former PGA National Teacher of the Year. The "Dr." comes from his PhD in biomechanics -- the science of body motion.
One hallmark of back problems -- either current or potential -- is an open body position at impact. The legs and hips have already turned through, and the right shoulder is tilted well below the left.
"That's a back killer. Fred Couples? Open. Lee Trevino? Open," says Suttie. "They were getting back surgeries when they weren't winning tournaments."
Suttie says the answer might not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but it would preserve 10 more years of major championship starts for the 38-year-old Woods. "If I taught him, I'd ask him to flare his left foot out at address, turn his shoulders more horizontal and let his hips turn a little bit," says Suttie, who is based at TwinEagles C.C. in Naples, FL and Mistwood G.C. in Romeoville, IL. "I'd also tell him it's OK to let that left heel lift off the ground a little bit. The downswing would be more all-together instead of driving his legs so hard. Sam Snead was almost square to the ball at impact. There's a reason he was able to stay competitive for so long."
Even the most comprehensive workout routine in the world isn't proof against the massive torque and repetitive strain caused by a violent 120-mph swing. "If anything, working out that hard to produce more speed puts more stress on his back, not less," says Suttie. "He doesn't need to care about distance. He's shown he can be 20 or 30 yards back and still beat everybody. Besides, none of it matters if you can't stay out there."
Suttie (right) should know. He has a six-inch steel rod and seven screws in his back that came from years of swinging the way Woods does now.
"The guys who last don't drive their legs like he does -- or like I did," says Suttie. "I'm sure it's something Sean Foley has already told him, but every golfer has to make his own choices. He still has some time left to do what he can do."