Age: 27 | Height: 5-feet-11 Driver: Nike VR Tour, 8.5 deg. Ball: Nike One Tour D Driving: distance (rank): 297.0 yards (43rd) Scoring average (rank): 69.62 (seventh)
WORKING ON A WORLD-CLASS SWING
If you didn't know who was hitting the ball, the distinctive swings of guys like Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson and Jim Furyk might give you pause before you realize you're looking at a top-50 player. But when you see Masters champion Charl Schwartzel's swing, there doesn't seem to be any other possibility. "I remember five years ago watching him win the South African tour's Order of Merit [he won it in 2005-'07 and 2010] and thinking, He has one of the best swings I've ever seen--classic and powerful," says Chuck Cook, No. 6 on Golf Digest's 50 Best Teachers in America. "Back then, I thought he could be the real deal, and we'd see him winning major championships soon."
That prediction came true at Augusta National last spring, where Schwartzel birdied the last four holes to win by two shots over Adam Scott and Jason Day. Schwartzel, a native of Johannesburg, South Africa, has won eight times in seven years playing the PGA and European Tours.
"I felt very much in control of my driving at the Masters," Schwartzel says. "The work I had put into my golf swing really came together that week."
Specifically, Schwartzel says he has been working to take the club back with a low, sweeping action to guard against snatching it up quickly and then having to recover.
"Sometimes I pick the club up too steeply," he says. "When that happens, I drop it too far to the inside coming down, and the club gets stuck behind my body. Then I have to try to save the shot through impact with my hands. It's hard to hit the ball on line that way."
Cook says in recent play Schwartzel has done a good job correcting that problem--there seems to be a better symmetry between his arms and body. His advice to Schwartzel is to work on that connection and to keep his left wrist from cupping at the top of the swing. Those two issues, Cook says, force Schwartzel to make two compensations on the downswing: First, he has to reconnect his arm swing to his body before turning through the ball. Second, because his shoulders are closed at impact, that cupped left wrist means he has to flip the club with excessive hand action to square the face.
"When his timing is good, he's fantastic," Cook says. "But if he can correct those two issues, he'll be able to fire through with his right side more consistently."
That advice plays right into Schwartzel's goal for 2012: "I don't want to be one of those guys who plays great one week and then doesn't the next. I want to have a swing that lets me play consistently every week."