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Different Strokes

Play Like the Pros: Understanding the Techniques of Recent PGA Tour Winners

Last month saw two professional golfers win, but in different career situations and with very different swings. A star for almost 20 years, Sergio Garcia won for the 12th time on the European Tour in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Long in the conversation but never able to ascend to a major championship victory, Sergio Garcia has brought himself back into the conversation of the best in golf. On the same weekend, Hideki Matsuyama won the Waste Management Phoenix Open for the second year in a row. A former world amateur number one, Matsuyama is a rising star on the PGA Tour and true celebrity in his home country of Japan. This article takes a look at both winners’ unique approach to the golf swing.

Sergio Garcia

Nicknamed El Niño, Garcia is 37 years old and was born in Spain. He turned professional at the age of 19 in 1999. He has a total of 31 career wins–including 9 on the PGA tour and  12 on the European tour. He has finished second four times in a major championship.

Garcia’s swing has been compared to that of the golfing great, Ben Hogan. He’s a fantastic ball striker and his swing has incredible clubhead lag. Other attributes of his swing also include the forward angle of his shaft at address and excellent balance. In a Golf Digest swing spotlight, it’s also been pointed out (1) that he has a slow and wide takeaway; (2) he often grips down about one inch for more control; (3) he generates that trademark Hogan lag with flexible wrists and an acute shaft/arm angle in the downswing; (4) he creates balance with lower body stability; and (5) he finishes majestically with a vertical spine and good balance.

These particular swing attributes are highlighted here because they are more dominant in Garcia than in other golfers. They would make excellent talking points with your PGA certified Bird Golf instructor as you decide how much of Sergio’s technique you should adopt as your own.

Hideki Matsuyama

Matsuyama is only 24 years old but had already amassed 4 PGA Tour wins and 1 European Tour victory. He achieved his best result in a major championship at the PGA Championship in 2016, where he finished tied for fourth. Like Garcia, Matsuyama was taught the game of golf by his father in Japan, where he started playing at the age of four.

The folks at Golf Digest have analyzed Matsuyama’s swing and summarize it as follows: “He puts everything he has into the ball but stays in control.” His swing features a unique and distinct pause at the top of his backswing, by which he has become very recognizable, but there are also other notable aspects of his swing that golfers can analyze and potentially adopt.

In his backswing, Matsuyama really winds up, meaning his hips stay centered over his legs the entire time during his back swing. Sometimes golfers think they’re coiling, but they are really just turning back–not Matsuyama. He also has a very wide swing arc due to his left arm remaining lengthened through the backswing. Also steady is his flexed right knee, which doesn’t straighten at all through the backswing. Further, Matsuyama’s distinct pause at the top of his swing is not without purpose: he uses it to focus on his tempo and slow down his backswing. Like Garcia, Matsuyama generates a lot of lag in the downswing by maintaining a wide swing arc and keeping his left shoulder lower than his right as he swings down. Finally, his hip turn slows through impact as his arms whip through the hitting area.

These are important aspects to a golf swing, especially one focused on driving the ball farther. The professional golf instructors at Bird Golf academy are well equipped to analyze your swing and discuss ways you might be able to follow Matsuyama in his technique.

A great point to consider in conjunction with this analysis is that both golfers’ swings are unique, and yet they both play at an extremely high level. As you work on your golf swing and consider ways you can adopt some of their tested techniques, don’t forget to be yourself. Bird Golf instructors can help with that too.