July 22, 2007

Swing sequence: Padraig Harrington

How I rebuilt my swing to contend in major championships

View Padraig's swing in full-motion: Face-on | Up-the-line

View Padraig's swing in full-motion: Face-on | Up-the-line

One of the best compliments I have ever been paid came from my fellow Irishman and Ryder Cup teammate, Paul McGinley. He said I must be the first person since Nick Faldo to completely change the physical look of my golf swing. And he's correct, at least about the extent to which my action has changed. If you compare pictures of my swing today with the one I had as a Walker Cup player 10 years ago, you'll see that I don't look like the same person.

That said, the swing you see here is still very much a project in progress. My ultimate goal is to have a low-maintenance method, one that allows me to show up at an event and not have to practice as much. I want to get to the point where I know what swing I have week to week and not have to search for it.

After more than five years working with my coach, Bob Torrance, we are at the "tidying-up" stage. Our emphasis has always been on the body creating the leverage in my swing. I don't want my hands doing anything more than they have to do. I know that the more my body works to create leverage, the better the strike is likely to be.



Bob Torrance

New Construction

*Analysis by Bob Torrance

with John Huggan*

The first time I set eyes on Padraig's swing, it was obvious we had some work to do. He had no leverage. He hit the ball no distance. He was a poor striker. The flight on his shots had no penetration. His shoulder plane was too flat. And his right elbow was behind him, not in front of him, on the backswing. I started with Padraig's footwork and leg action. At the top of his backswing, his left heel worked outward, to his left. When he swung through, his right heel worked outward, to his right. Now they move up and in at the same stages. We worked on that for a long time.

Then we looked at his rotation, specifically his left forearm to the top of the swing. That move creates speed, cocks your wrist to the swing plane, puts your club in the same position at the top every time and holds your right elbow in.

All of those things are desirable. And I learned them all from Ben Hogan.

Next was Padraig's connection. If you stand with the upper part of your left arm against your chest and keep it there, you are connected. But if your arm moves away from your body, you have lost connection. Mr. Hogan told me the feeling he had was he couldn't get a razor blade between his arm and his chest. That wasn't reality, but that was his feeling.

Padraig has done a great job with all aspects of his swing. He isn't the finished article yet. He isn't ready to arrive at a tournament and think, "I can win this." But he is a great pupil. He is prepared to get worse in order to get better. Not many are. He will work on something until he gets it. There are no shortcuts in this game.

One last thing: When these pictures were taken Padraig was preparing for the Masters; he had strengthened his left-hand grip to help him draw the ball.

*Based in Largs, Ayrshire, Scotland, Bob Torrance has worked with his son Sam, Paul McGinley and Ian Woosnam, among other European tour players. *