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Jordan Spieth's Official Thread

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Just figured I'd start a thread on the golf career of Jordan Spieth.

Last weekend he became the 3rd youngest player to win seven events.

Today, USA Today Sports published an article about having a "Quirky Swing". - http://ftw.usatoday.com/2016/01/jordan-spieths-quirky-swing-is-the-reason-why-hes-so-good-at-golf

It's an interesting article with a discussion of swing mechanics and comparison to Rory McIlroy's swing.

I'm sure this will be a long running thread for the enjoyment of all.

Quote

By: Luke Kerr-Dineen | January 11, 2016 10:39 am

Jordan Spieth captured his seventh victory before the age of 23 on Sunday at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, tying Tiger Woods for the most. What looked like a rich vein of form this time last year has morphed into a standard showing for Spieth, absent of any signs that it will vanish sometime soon.

So, why is Jordan Spieth so good? His mature, competitive mindset obviously has a lot to do with it, but we’re going to sit that aside for now because, at this point, it should be obvious. Instead we’re going to look at his mechanics.

I have to admit: I was on the fence for a long time when it came to Jordan Spieth. He was a proven winner at every level, which is about as surefire an indicator for future success as you can get in golf, but his swing also had some seriously unconventional moves in it. Specifically with his left arm, which would bend on his backswing and then again on the way though.

This is a common problem among amateur golfers that has been affectionately named a “chicken wing.” Some pros have managed to play well in spite of it (as Lee Westwood can attest) but because hitting the ball well consistently is so reliant on impeccable timing, that same move usually fails them under pressure (as Lee Westwood can attest).

Jordan Spieth is not the best ball-striker on tour. Just look at his ball-striking statistics from last year, the best of his career so far: 78th in Driving Distance, 80th in Driving Accuracy, 49th in Greens in Regulation, 52nd in Total Driving, 45th in All-Around Ball Striking, and 26th in Proximity to the Hole. Those stats look like those of a tour player who is totally reliant on steller putting, which is very difficult to maintain for long periods of time.

But Spieth also finished fourth in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green that year. How? Because rather than having one strength and riding that to success, Spieth has mastered the art of doing nothing badly. And it’s his quirky swing that makes it all possible.

Look at how much his left arm bends, compared to his biggest rival, Rory McIlroy.

js.thumb.png.e72dd6dd93df72989d7f37d2987

(AP Photo/Matt York)

And now compare it to Rory’s right hand, which is more turned-over.

That move doesn’t come without its consequences: Rory hits the ball a lot further than Spieth, and it’s why, when Rory is firing on all cylinders, he’s arguably the better player. But what Jordan does have is an ability to hit the ball with supreme consistency.

Spieth’s left arm is bent that way because Spieth is working hard to keep his golf club’s clubface from rotating through impact. Spieth has figured out that the less the clubface rotates through the ball, the less he has to rely on timing, so the more repeatable it is. Spieth is essentially hitting a glorified block all the time, which is pretty hard to mess up, in any sport.

So take a look at this same move again. Look how much Spieth’s right hand stays under the golf club’s grip, thus keeping the clubface square for longer.

j.thumb.png.cc49c9456f17de25373304a6eb0b

And now compare it to Rory’s right hand, which is more turned-over.

r.thumb.png.c18966b2ea13f74eba8cf3af5e94

It’s a subtle but important distinction. It may hurt Spieth down the road if courses continue to lengthen and favor big-hitters like Rory, but in the meantime, Spieth will continue repeating his simple motion en-route to many more victories

 

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He's fun to watch because he doesn't have that picture-perfect swing but the ball goes where he wants it to. With him, Rory, Day, Fowler et al, the next decade should be a lot of fun to watch.

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1 hour ago, Club Rat said:

This is a common problem among amateur golfers that has been affectionately named a “chicken wing.” Some pros have managed to play well in spite of it (as Lee Westwood can attest) but because hitting the ball well consistently is so reliant on impeccable timing, that same move usually fails them under pressure (as Lee Westwood can attest).

................

Spieth’s left arm is bent that way because Spieth is working hard to keep his golf club’s clubface from rotating through impact. Spieth has figured out that the less the clubface rotates through the ball, the less he has to rely on timing, so the more repeatable it is. Spieth is essentially hitting a glorified block all the time, which is pretty hard to mess up, in any sport.

I like the write up and the explanation of the hows and whys of Speiths somewhat unorthodox swing, but I don't understand.  Aren't the two paragraphs up above completely at odds with each other?  I mean, is his move more or less reliant on timing than an "orthodox" swing?  It surely can't be both. :-P

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3 minutes ago, Golfingdad said:

Aren't the two paragraphs up above completely at odds with each other?

I agree with you Drew. Also note he states one move fails and then turns around and declares it's hard to mess up.

4 minutes ago, Golfingdad said:

that same move usually fails them under pressure & then states "Spieth is essentially hitting a glorified block all the time, which is pretty hard to mess up, in any sport."

 

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25 minutes ago, Club Rat said:

I agree with you Drew. Also note he states one move fails and then turns around and declares it's hard to mess up.

Yeah, although I can kind of see why he'd mess this up.  Both ideas make sense.  It makes sense that Jordan could be more consistent with less wrist rotation, and that the chicken wing is kind of a by-product of that move.  But it's also easy to see that it's not a very ideal move, because otherwise, I imagine we'd be seeing a lot more of it than just one or two prominent players.

I would love to hear an expert (paging @iacas or @mvmac) give their thoughts on the pros and cons of Jordans chicken wing.

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1 minute ago, Golfingdad said:

I would love to hear an expert (paging @iacas or @mvmac) give their thoughts on the pros and cons of Jordans chicken wing.

Why? It's just what he does.

Key #7b is not "No Chicken Wing."

Actually, if we had a Key #7b, I wouldn't mind if it was "Eat Chicken Wings."

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2 hours ago, Club Rat said:

Spieth’s left arm is bent that way because Spieth is working hard to keep his golf club’s clubface from rotating through impact. Spieth has figured out that the less the clubface rotates through the ball, the less he has to rely on timing, so the more repeatable it is. Spieth is essentially hitting a glorified block all the time, which is pretty hard to mess up, in any sport.

What does the above bold in any sport mean? What's a glorified block in baseball, football, basketball?

The option of tweeting at him to explain the chicken wing/face rotation mitigation inconsistency is there. I quick look at his bio doesn't reveal anything about an in depth knowledge of the golf swing, but a journalist by training.

 

If there's one thing I'd be worried about, it's that extreme foot roll at the end of his swing. No history of foot injuries afaik, so probably not a problem.

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Count me as a member of the JSpieth fan club.  What he's doing hasn't been seen since Tiger Woods.

I like his approach in terms of treating this season as an extension of last.  No long term majors or wins goals, the goal is to win the next one.

I know a little more about him than any other pro as I have a golf buddy whose kid played high school golf with him at Jesuit and another whose daughter was BFs with JS' former GF.  So, I've heard a few stories and all confirm that he is a great kid with phenomenal parents.  Fun guy to root for.

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Many players had the "flying elbow" in their backswing and then tuck it. One of the greats was Jack.

I've read it creates a powerful rotational movement. 

http://www.golf.com/tour-and-news/golf-tips-and-instruction-johnny-miller-describes-jack-nicklaus-keys-success
 

Quote

 

By refusing to fold his right elbow early like it's taught, Jack rewrote the record book

Jack_0.thumb.jpg.b90a354360c7921c611ed37

by Johnny Miller

Posted: Mon Jun. 25, 2012Updated: Mon Dec. 1, 2014

I can say with a high level of confidence that I’ve played with and studied Jack Nicklaus more than anyone, and because of this I know the secret to his success. Funny enough, this secret is probably the one thing for which Jack is most criticized, but I know better. That flying right elbow of his—the one the experts said broke too many rules to build a successful career—helped Jack forge a swing that was born to win majors.

Most players are taught to fold the right elbow early in the backswing, and certainly this is a reliable way to get the club to the top. But it also raises the risk of opening the clubface, and for amateurs beset by accuracy issues, folding the right elbow can exacerbate their slice. Check out any footage of Jack (the moves he made as a powerful young player in the 1960s are still evident in his swing today) and you’ll see him hold his right arm straight and allow his right elbow to fly out in his backswing. Looks a little funny, but these moves kept his clubface square longer than anyone so he didn’t have to worry about timing his swing to get it that way at impact. A lot of people don’t talk about it, but Jack also allowed his left elbow to fly through impact, which further held the clubface square (Lee Westwood does a little of this, too). Most players get the face to match the target line for a millisecond. By allowing his elbows to fly instead of fold early, Jack increased his “square time” to a level rarely seen.

Here’s the fun part: Because Nicklaus knew the clubface would hold square through impact and beyond, he was able to play the ball up in his stance without worrying about the clubface turning over and producing a hook. And the more forward you play the ball in your stance, the higher you’re going to hit it. So what you get—and what Jack exploited to perfection from his first major win in 1962 to his last in 1986—is a purely struck shot with a little fade action that also flies very high, the perfect recipe for holding the hard, fast greens typical of U.S. Open venues and Augusta National.

 

 

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The idea that a certain singular technical aspect of JS's swing makes it mechanically more repeatable than RM's is hog wash IMHO. There are so many moving parts in a swing that collectively produce a hit and ensuing ball flight. Maybe he just has greater body awareness at the moment. Who knows. I don't think it is a visually recognizable answer.  

All I know is he (JS) is in just more firmly lodged in his swing slot at the moment and may well stay there for a long time.   

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In my opinion, there's no one reason Spieth is a great player, it's a whole combination of reasons.  His incredible short game.  His lack of mistakes.   His course management.   He's not overpowering these courses like past great players.   He's doing everything else.   

 

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I agree there's no one reason he's really good. Long & accurate with great putting - solid overall game.

One quality that stands out is something that I see in many of his post-round interviews. He seems to recall (or at least verbalize) a lot of detail of shots he describes (lie, wind, challenges, similar shots from the past, his decision-making). I'm sure other players do this too, but think more of them tend to speak about the details of the outcome (good shot / bad shot). This may reflect an acute attention to detail (would tie in with his excellent green reading) or maybe a bit more than typical 'meta-conscious' / mindful mental process where he is able to absorb more detail as a 'passive observer' in the moment? The 'weatherman' also seems to prepare very thoroughly.

His elbows make me think less 'chicken wing' and more along the lines of Hogan's 'connected elbows' intention. They aren't nearly as tight to the body as Hogan - could be related to his steeper shoulder angle vs Hogan - but seem more similar to that than a classic chicken wing. That's on full shots. For flighted shots / less than full wedges he often looks full chicken wing.

Edited by natureboy

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1 hour ago, GolfLug said:

The idea that a certain singular technical aspect of JS's swing makes it mechanically more repeatable than RM's is hog wash IMHO. There are so many moving parts in a swing that collectively produce a hit and ensuing ball flight. Maybe he just has greater body awareness at the moment. Who knows. I don't think it is a visually recognizable answer.  

All I know is he (JS) is in just more firmly lodged in his swing slot at the moment and may well stay there for a long time.   

Agreed. His swing is good, like all PGA Tour pros, regardless of idiosyncrasies. When you start talking about "secrets" that make a player great, I immediately tune it out. It sells magazines and books (and might even get you a hefty sum, Ben Hogan knew when he gave that nonsense "secret" interview to LIFE magazine), but there are no secrets in golf. 

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43 minutes ago, natureboy said:

I agree there's no one reason he's really good. Long & accurate with great putting - solid overall game.

He's not long off the tee, but it's serviceable for his game. He's actually just barely above PGA Tour average. 

He has a very good short game. Very good putting from 15-25'. Hardly ever three putts. He's actually not an elite putter inside of 10'. Probably something he should work on. He's amazing on proximity to the hole on approach shots from the rough. Not sure if his swing is part of that or maybe it's something in the way he tackles the course. Like knowing if he misses right he has a better angle, so that allows him to get it closer even if hits it in the rough. 

28 minutes ago, jbishop15 said:

Agreed. His swing is good, like all PGA Tour pros, regardless of idiosyncrasies. When you start talking about "secrets" that make a player great, I immediately tune it out. It sells magazines and books (and might even get you a hefty sum, Ben Hogan knew when he gave that nonsense "secret" interview to LIFE magazine), but there are no secrets in golf. 

Pretty much. Spieth does 5 things really really well in his golf swing :-D

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5 minutes ago, saevel25 said:

He's not long off the tee, but it's serviceable for his game. He's actually just barely above PGA Tour average. 

He has a very good short game. Very good putting from 15-25'. Hardly ever three putts. He's actually not an elite putter inside of 10'. Probably something he should work on. He's amazing on proximity to the hole on approach shots from the rough. Not sure if his swing is part of that or maybe it's something in the way he tackles the course. Like knowing if he misses right he has a better angle, so that allows him to get it closer even if hits it in the rough. 

Pretty much. Spieth does 5 things really really well in his golf swing :-D

He's actually well, well below average on putts from 3-5 feet, which is strange. 

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4 minutes ago, saevel25 said:

He's not long off the tee, but it's serviceable for his game. He's actually just barely above PGA Tour average. 

He has a very good short game. Very good putting from 15-25'. Hardly ever three putts. He's actually not an elite putter inside of 10'. Probably something he should work on. He's amazing on proximity to the hole on approach shots from the rough. Not sure if his swing is part of that or maybe it's something in the way he tackles the course. Like knowing if he misses right he has a better angle, so that allows him to get it closer even if hits it in the rough. 

Pretty much. Spieth does 5 things really really well in his golf swing :-D

He's longer than he was.  I've tried to find tournament driving distances but cannot.  He wasn't far behind Koepka (my new favorite swing on tour), was way longer than Kis and was equal with PReed.  My guess is that he was in the top 10 in driving distance last week (understand only 32 players but we'll see this play out over the season, I believe).  I don't think he'll get up into the top 10 on tour but I expect a marked improvement.

He studied his stats over his short off-season.  Short putts are not an issue.  He's gonna focus on his wedge game, and he'll improve.

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7 minutes ago, saevel25 said:

He's not long off the tee, but it's serviceable for his game. He's actually just barely above PGA Tour average.

Yeah, that should have been long enough with above average accuracy. He's slightly above average in driving distance, yet in the top 15 SG for driving.

7 minutes ago, saevel25 said:

He has a very good short game. Very good putting from 15-25'. Hardly ever three putts. He's actually not an elite putter inside of 10'.

Yeah, but how much worse in % terms is rank 90 or whatever he is inside that distance. I don't think he is losing a lot of strokes relative to the field with his less than elite putting at that distance. Also putting skill includes lag putting and he's near the top or #1 in approach putt distance. That gave him the edge at the U.S. Open vs. DJ's much better ballstriking.

7 minutes ago, saevel25 said:

He's amazing on proximity to the hole on approach shots from the rough. Not sure if his swing is part of that or maybe it's something in the way he tackles the course. Like knowing if he misses right he has a better angle, so that allows him to get it closer even if hits it in the rough.

Maybe some of both. If he has less face rotation that may help vs. players that rely on a  shot shape out of rough that reduces (unpredictably) the spin that creates that shape.

 

45 minutes ago, jbishop15 said:

Ben Hogan knew when he gave that nonsense "secret" interview to LIFE magazine), but there are no secrets in golf. 

It was definitely a secret for him, so he was genuine in sharing it. But yes his work in the 'dirt' was more critical to his success.

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4 minutes ago, natureboy said:

It was definitely a secret for him, so he was genuine in sharing it. But yes his work in the 'dirt' was more critical to his success.

Spoiler

OT, but Hogan's contemporaries (and his biographers) think that he used that LIFE magazine money to help start his company. Most of them think he took them for a ride. 

 

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