As a former tour player from Utah, I knew about Tony's power long before I became his teacher last spring. His distance is almost unbelievable. He holds the record for the highest ball speed ever recorded on the PGA Tour--193 miles per hour--from the 2007 U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee. Tony reins it in a lot of the time, but when he lets one go, there are few people who get anywhere close to him.
Where does he find that power? Tony is largely self-taught and by nature is non-technical. He's very smart--he's a voracious reader--but likes to approach the swing in simple language. He prefers swing keys that are visual and feel-oriented. We call them "feelmages," a blend of things you can see and sense. Here are a few you can try:
KEEP YOUR WEIGHT FORWARD
- All good athletes function with their weight slightly forward at all times. Not out over the toes, but on the balls of the feet. I don't like to see players shifting weight to the right heel on the backswing--a popular tip. It disrupts the turn and isn't good for balance. Make no mistake, balance is a huge key to hitting it long, and Tony is a great model for dynamic balance.
SWING YOUR ARMS IN CLOSE
- It's trendy to try to extend the club straight back away from the ball on a super-wide swing arc. Tony and I go the other way on this. If you swing to the inside with your arms in close, it makes the club feel lighter and keeps you in control. You also are much less likely to "get stuck" on the downswing, the club getting too far behind your body. Tony swings "in and up," much like Sam Snead used to do. Though his arms stay in close, they don't cramp his swing. He has no problem arriving at the top with a full, wide arc, his left arm extended beautifully.
TURN YOUR CHEST THROUGH
- Firing the hips is a well-established downswing move. Nothing wrong with thnat, except it can lead to the upper body not joining with the lower body. If you forget to fire the chest along with the hips and legs, the sequence of motion becomes less dynamic, and you create power leaks. Once Tony has cleared his hips, I like to see him rotate his chest as aggressively as he can. Now his whole body is in on the act. In his follow-through, his belt buckle is aimed left of the target, and his right shoulder is aimed even farther left. It's a sign of uninhibited motion with the chest, shoulders and arms.
FIND YOUR INNER ATHLETE
- Tony is 6-4, 200 pounds and has uncommonly long arms, shoulders like airplane wings, giant hands and the flexibility of a gymnast. When he goes after it like the athlete he is, he's more natural and has more fun. The lesson here for you is, take advantage of what you naturally do well. Maybe it's a powerful swing, or soft hands. Whatever your strong suit, play it to the max.
Boyd Summerhays is the director of instruction at McDowell Mountain Golf Club in Scottsdale.