Editor's note: Every Monday, PGA professional Kevin Hinton examines the game 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 how So Yeon Ryu made consistently flawless swings to force a three-hole playoff in the Women's U.S. Open, then continued with incredible precision to birdie two holes in the playoff to capture her first major championship.
Kevin Hinton: So Yeon Ryu (pronounced "yoo") is the latest Women's U.S. Open champion from South Korea. She outlasted her native countrywoman Hee Kyung Seo in an aggregate three-hole playoff. Ryu didn't miss a fairway in her last fourteen attempts, which included going two for two in the playoff. In addition to very steady iron play and a clutch putting stroke, Ryu's consistent driving played a large part in propelling her to the title. Click on the video clip below of Ryu's driver swing to get a closer look and see how you can benefit.
Most average male golfers can improve by imitating the swings of women professionals. Because women pros aren't as strong as their male counterparts, they must rely more on swinging the club and getting into proper positions to generate clubhead speed and produce consistently solid contact. By studying Ryu's driver swing, there are several things you can learn, but let's take note of these three:
(1) This clip gives us a great look at Ryu's pre-shot routine. Notice how she starts behind the ball and lines herself up along her target line. She then walks to the side of the ball and enters into the shot at a 90-degree angle to her target line. This allows her to set up squarely. Once she has addressed the ball, she waggles the club as she looks at the target. Ryu then makes one more waggle, sets, then pulls the trigger. The benefits of a good pre-shot routine: It helps you aim well and puts your focus on the target. Make small movements to avoid tension from building, and don't take a lot of time. Where tour players do spend a lot of time is away from the ball gathering information, but they do not stand over the golf ball for very long. Jack Nicklaus was one notable exception. But that is one part of Jack's game I would not advise the average player to copy.
(2) Look at Ryu's address position. It's a perfect driver setup. She has a wide stance with the ball in the front. Her spine is tilted away from the target and her head is behind the ball. The
shaft is in a neutral position, almost leaning back slightly. This is very common among great drivers. We looked at John Cook's long-iron setup last week, and it is very similar. The driver stance is only slightly more extreme because now we actually do want to create an ascending angle of attack to help maximize distance.
(3) A great thing to copy is her right-leg stability in the backswing. Ryu makes a huge coil but manages to maintain an extremely braced right leg. She maintains her knee flex beautifully and keeps her weight on the inside of her right foot. I often tell students to imagine that their right foot is up against a pitcher's mound--extremely solid in the backswing, but ready to push off in the downswing. To me, this is exactly the role that Ryu's right leg and knee are playing . . . a great stabilizer in the backswing, and a power source in the downswing.