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Jump Start Your Game This Winter

March 2008
Jump Start Your Game This Winter

Growing up in the Midwest, we always had those four or five months of cold weather where you'd get away from golf. Then you were fired up to come back. That's why now, even as a PGA Tour player, I continue to live in Madison, Wis. I love that feeling of getting excited to play again. Sure, I'm not as sharp at times as I might be if I played all year long, but I've found there are some things you can do in the winter to get ready for golf season-- and they can make a big difference when it's time to tee it up again.

I learned this lesson after the 2005 season. I had just come off a bad year (162nd on the money list) and then missed getting fully exempt status at Q school. That meant that at the start of the 2006 season, because of my limited status, I would be qualified to play only four of the first 16 events. That woke me up, and I knew if I were going to get better, I'd have to work on my game in the dead of winter.

Luckily, my father-in-law and golf coach, Dennis Tiziani, had just purchased a heated practice shed that took some of the sting out of the weather (see photo). I spent a lot of time in that shed, and it paid off in a big way-- for two years now. I had 16 top-10 finishes on tour in 2006 and 2007 and my first victory in six years (2007 Barclays).

But even if you don't have access to a heated range, there are plenty of things you can do to get your game ready for next season. Let me show you what I've been working on, and how it can help you, too.

-- As told to Ron Kaspriske

Groove Good Tempo

When my swing was at its worst, I would get quick with my takeaway. I would snap it back in the first few feet, and that set the tone for a fast transition from backswing to downswing. To improve my tempo, Tiz, as I call my father-in-law, and I used to work on this drill all the time. The best part is, you can do this drill on the rug in your basement.

Address a ball with a 5-iron. Place another club immediately behind the clubhead so the shaft on the ground is pointing down the target line. As you start your backswing, push the club on the ground straight back away from the target (left). You'll need to turn your body and swing your arms in unison to have enough strength to move the club back smoothly. This slow, controlled tempo is the pace you want for all your clubs. If you can take the club back smoothly for the first few feet, you'll notice it helps you to complete your backswing before starting down. It's a great drill.

Check the Mirror for Flaws

I used to have a tendency to take the club too far inside on the backswing. The shaft would cross the line and point right of the target at the top, leading to blocked shots to the right or wild hooks. It got so I had no confidence I could hit a fairway with my driver.

That winter before the 2006 season I spent a lot of time swinging into the correct backswing position, then verifying it by checking in a mirror. When you do this, you should be looking for the clubshaft to be on a line parallel with your left arm as you get toward the top (keep in mind, it will look like your right arm in the mirror). Also, check that your right elbow stays tucked to your side.

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