Editor's note: Every week, PGA professional Kevin Hinton examines the swing of a recent tour winner and tells you what you can learn. A Golf Digest Best Young Teacher, Kevin is the Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Golf Club, Locust Valley, N.Y., and is a Lead Master Instructor for the Jim McLean Golf School at Doral Resort & Spa. He also teaches at Drive 495 in New York. He has seen thousands of swings, and has helped golfers of all abilities, from rank beginners to tour players. This week, he looks at the incredibly consistent action of Steve Stricker, who won the Memorial Tournament on Sunday--after a lengthy rain delay--by one stroke over Matt Kuchar and Brandt Jobe.
__*Kevin Hinton: During Sunday's final round, Steve Stricker had consecutive sand saves on the 16th and 17th holes, making putts of seven and 15 feet to help preserve his first win at the Memorial. Stricker is ranked No. 1 on the PGA Tour in putting from five to 15 feet, a skill that proved extremely valuable down the stretch.
While Steve's putting is statistically the best part of his game, he's also a well-above-average ball-striker. He hits 67.75 percent of his Greens in Regulation, which ranks 24th on tour. The combination of his solid ball-striking and his phenomenal putting makes him an extremely consistent player. In fact, he has currently made 33 consecutive cuts on tour, more than any other player! Last year during the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits we analyzed his clutch putting stroke. Let's now take a closer look at his full swing from down the line:
Much of Steve's consistent ball-striking stems from the simplicity of his backswing. In the takeaway, he starts the club back in a "one piece" manner that has no quick or sudden movements to it. His hips, shoulders, arms and club move away from the ball in unison, with his wrists being visibly passive. This is a great lesson for the average player. There is no key position that guarantees a perfect swing, but focusing on a smooth, simple takeaway that is void of unnecessary movements can be a great thing to practice. I try to get my students to imagine a very "quiet" beginning to their swings.
The characteristics of Steve's takeaway remain throughout his backswing. He continues to coil his shoulders while he very gradually begins to hinge his wrists. He definitely does allow his wrists to hinge later in the swing, but he is still on the low end of the spectrum. His backswing is dominated much more by his big muscles, which does enable him to create adequate power. However, Steve's swing is built more for accuracy and consistency, not power (he's 127th on tour in average driving distance).
His downswing is much of the same. Stricker is without a doubt a "body" swinger. He again uses his big muscles as his mechanism to hit the ball, essentially using the rotation of his body to create his power and to square the clubface. He has worked on this with his swing coach Dennis Tiziani since 2005, when he had fallen to as low as No. 337 in the world rankings. Through the simplification of his swing and the regaining of his confidence, he climbed to No. 2 in the world last year. He is currently No. 4, the highest rank of any American player. If your game is more in need of consistency rather than power, learn from Steve's action and it might provide just that.