It's no secret that coming into 2014 I had trouble putting together four good days at a tournament. My final-round stroke average wasn't very good—106th on the PGA Tour in 2013. But this year has been a different story: I ranked eighth in scoring on Sundays, more than two shots better than last year. Even though I didn't win a major in 2014, I was right there in all four of them. I tied for fifth at the Masters, second at the U.S. Open and British Open, and third at the PGA Championship. Each time I felt like I finished strong.At Royal Liverpool, I was able to shoot four rounds in the 60s, including 67 on the last day. That tells me the swing changes Butch Harmon and I have been making are exactly what I needed.About a year ago Butch and I came up with a plan to make my swing and my game more consistent. After our initial sessions, I regressed. The changes Butch wanted me to work on took a little time before I trusted them under tournament pressure. One of the big ones is rotating my arms on the takeaway so the toe of the club moves first going back, instead of the clubhead going back to the outside and the face shutting, like I used to do. Now, before I start my swing, I rehearse a takeaway with the club swinging back on line and the clubface rotating open. That pre-sets the perfect move off the ball.
Photo By: Photo: J.D. Cuban
Getting that first move right gets my whole swing on track. Now I don't need to re-route the club to the inside on the downswing, which required a lot of timing. I feel like my swing will hold up at crunch time. I'm not on or off, like I used to be. It's very solid now, and that's a great feeling to have. I can't wait to get back in contention in the majors.Using the two driver sequences here—the top one from 2010,the bottom from this past August—Butch will take you through the changes we've made. I hope they'll help you get more consistent, too.
BEFORE: TOO MUCH BODY TURN TOO EARLYRickie used to drag the handle back and turn his hips and shoulders very early in the swing. The clubhead would lag behind the rotation of his body. Also, his ball position would tend to creep too far back, which contributed to that early turn—he was trying to load up behind the ball. —Butch HarmonAFTER: EARLIER WRIST SET, CLUB STRAIGHT BACKWe've worked to sync up his takeaway, hinging the wrists sooner and not being as quick with the body. You might have noticed the move he makes over the ball: He practices the first few feet of the swing, making sure he sees the shaft go back right on his toe line. That's on plane.—Butch Harmon
BEFORE: CLUB DROPS BEHIND THE BODYAfter a bit of an overturn going back, when Rickie shifted left to start down, his left arm and the club would "lay down" and get stuck behind his body. Notice two frames after the top of the swing, the shaft is still running through his head. From there, he'd have to use his hands to catch up.—Butch HarmonAFTER: HIGHER HANDS, SWING STAYS WIDERickie's new takeaway sets up higher hands at the top. This wide arc stores power and keeps his hands away from his head so they can get back in front of his body sooner. Compare with the frames above: The club stays wide and tracks straight to the ball. No getting stuck.—Butch Harmon
BEFORE: HANGING BACK AND FLIPPING THE HANDSBecause Rickie used to lose the club behind him, he'd have to back up, or tilt to the right, to give his hands a chance to square the face at impact. Look at how far behind his body his head used to be—and for how long. He was timing the strike with his hands, which was inconsistent.—Butch HarmonAFTER: MOVING FORWARD, EVERYTHING GOESNow Rickie is more "on top of the ball" at impact, his body centered and everything releasing to the target. The brim of his hat is turning forward, which proves his head is going with the swing. And he's lost that backward tilt through the ball, which will help his ball-striking—and his back.—Butch Harmon
"I feel like my swing will hold up at crunch time."—Rickie Fowler