Secrets of golf's biggest hitter

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The Independent Online
There is a set of bunkers at Augusta National which owe their existence to Jack Nicklaus. The "Golden Bear", when he was a mere cub, simply flew over all the fairway bunkers then in place, so more were added and others moved.

Tiger Woods, like Nicklaus, or Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros in their young days and like John Daly until recently, simply hits the ball further than anyone else in the game. Whether, without the help of modern club and ball technology, Woods would achieve the distances he does is irrelevant. The fact is that Woods is airmailing all those Nicklaus bunkers.

In his two appearances as an amateur in the Masters, Woods averaged 311.1 yards off the tee in 1995 and 342.0 last year. Woods also hit 26 of 28 fairways. Norman's mantle as the longest, straightest hitter has also fallen to the prodigy.

So, how does he do it? "This kid is the most fundamentally sound golfer I've ever seen almost at any age. He hits the ball nine million miles, and without a swing that looks like he is trying to."

You would accuse the speaker of hyperbole, except that it is six-times Masters champion Nicklaus.

"Tiger's game is rooted in sound fundamentals," said Butch Harmon, Woods' coach. "His grip, posture, alignment and ball position are textbook. The swing itself is superb mechanically and is performed with excellent balance and rhythm."

Woods, who works out like any young athlete, is blessed with a body, at 6ft 2in and 11 stone that is both strong and flexible. It is this flexibility which allows him to make a large shoulder turn with a minimum of hip rotation. This stores a huge amount of energy at the top of his backswing and when this is released on the downswing, it is like a whip being cracked.

"His hips are very quick through the ball," said Nick Faldo's coach, David Leadbetter. "The club is still going back as he's coming down." Rick Smith, who counts the Golden Bear amongst his clientele, added: "Tiger has got the fastest rotational speed I have ever seen."

Harmon explains: "A low, wide takeaway is an important feature of Tiger's swing. It promotes a full shoulder turn and a wide swing arc, two keys for maximum distance. His shoulder turn is so full that his shirt restricts his backswing. To free himself up, Tiger tucks the upper part of his shirt sleeve under the shoulder seam."

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