Alright, Tiger Woods finished tied for last in his return to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge.
Despite that, there's plenty to like about what the 14-time major champion showed at his former home club, Isleworth, near Orlando. In particular, Woods' golf swing looked more reminiscent of the guy who won all of those majors from 1997-2008, not the swing from the last four years that let him down at times and physically hurt him at others.
Start with the stance. Woods looks like he has a wider base and more weight shifted toward his right side, a better position than where he was under Sean Foley, where he was setting up to load his left side to compress the ball at impact. His posture is also a little more upright, which is key to the entire motion.
The takeaway is longer, which does a couple of things for Woods. It allows him a chance to generate more power by feeling comfortable enough to take his swing to and past parallel at the top. It also buys him some time on the downswing, as well, giving the club a longer path back to the ball and more time to square the clubface. The path to the top is also more upright, leading to a higher ball flight, the ideal trajectory for the modern game.
At the top of the swing, Woods seems to be fighting a closed ("shut") clubface, meaning that the face of the club is pointing toward the sky, as opposed to ideally at the back of his head. That leaves him open to a miss on the right -- the Hank Haney miss -- as an over-correction, but can lead to a snap hook, like Woods hit on the first hole of the tournament. This was arguably Woods' largest swing flaw on display this week.
On the downswing, there's a lot to like.
First, there is a clear shift of weight from Woods' right side toward his left. Every great golf swing has that. A lot of modern instructors are advising players to utilize the ground to create force instead of the lateral shift, and Woods still does this to some extent with this new-ish swing. However, since Woods no longer loads on the left side to build that power against the ground, he can clear his hips sooner, freeing his arms to get back to the ball with a square clubface and a full release of power at impact. He's not swinging harder, but more efficiently.
Woods will still fight some head-bobbing, as he's done for several years now. But, Woods' posture seems more consistent through the swing, which should lead to more consistent results.
All told, Woods' changes have been met with almost universal approval, from Haney, to friend Steve Stricker, to Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, who was no fan of Foley and his methods.
While this all isn't to say Woods is fixed technically -- there's still work to do -- it is to say he's on the right path, in a figurative and literal sense, heading into 2015.
Now, to work on that short game.