Fast Forward : When David Leadbetter and Ty Tryon went to the videotape, we came along for an inside look – 17-year-old golfer’s swing analyzed – Brief Article

Ed Weathers

IT’S A FREAKISHLY COLD, BLUST- ery morning three days into the new year, and the wind chill in Davenport, Fla., just outside Orlando, is about 22 degrees. It’s the kind of day when it’s better to think about a golf swing than to actually make one. Ty Tryon and David Leadbetter think a lot about golf swings, and this morning they are sitting in a small room at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy analyzing video of the latest incarnation of Ty’s swing.

A few weeks earlier, that swing did something remarkable: It earned the 17-year-old high school junior the privilege of playing on the PGA Tour, making him the youngest person ever to negotiate Q school and play his way onto the tour. To hear student and teacher tell it, by his first event Ty will have an even better swing. As you watch them navigate the videotape–rewinding here, fast-forwarding there, focusing on this knee position, on that arm angle, drawing lines on the screen–you learn that this is indeed the Age of Swing Technique and that the computer is the hothouse in which phenoms like Ty Tryon blossom.

Today, Tryon and Leadbetter are focused on those few quirks remaining in Ty’s swing–quirks he has had since he was (ancient history) a kid. He has a tendency, for example, to shift his right hip away from the target too much on the backswing and to collapse or “chicken wing” his arms and come up off his left heel at impact.

What’s the strength of his golf swing? “Compensation!” jokes Ty, referring to his ability to counter one mistake in the swing with another that fixes things. “A lot of times, two supposed wrongs do make a right,” says Leadbetter. “Ty’s a great compensator. But in the end, the fewer your compensations, the more efficient your swing.”

A lot of Ty’s compensations start with his little lateral hip slide on the takeaway, so they slip one video into the machine in which Ty is hitting balls while Leadbetter squats behind him, his hand on Ty’s right hip, locking it into place as Ty makes his backswing.

Even when he’s criticizing his swing, Ty usually finishes by saying, “But that’s so much better than it used to be.” After watching another video that shows a little of the old wobbliness in his right leg on the backswing, Ty shakes his head. “It’ll be better tomorrow,” he insists, a phrase he repeats throughout the morning. When he learns to extend the left arm at impact, he says, “Watch out! I’ll be hitting it 15 extra yards.” This from a kid whose drive on the last hole of tour school went some 330 yards.

But this is how a young player thinks about his swing: Tomorrow will be better. And, says Leadbetter, it will be. “It’s amazing how fast these young guys improve,” he says. “You can come back with videos on the same day and see an 8:30 swing, a 10:30 swing, a 12:30 swing.”

As for golf on tour, “I’m just going to focus on the seven tournaments I can play the first half of the year,” Tryon says. “Hopefully, I can make some money, get back on the tour next year and maybe even win. As for my swing, I just have faith that I can swing the way I want to swing–the way David’s trying to teach me. I know I can do it. It just takes time.”

Adds Leadbetter: “He’s already got a swing that will hold up. He’s got the Taj Mahal. We’re just putting a coat of paint on it.”

Growing talent

David Leadbetter: The first thing you notice about Ty’s swing is that he strikes the ball very purely. His compression with the irons, the way the ball comes off the clubface with the driver–very impressive. He’s been working out hard and he’s physically filling out, so he’s getting stronger, too. Ty Tryon: I lift weights, ride the bike and play a lot of basketball. I’ve played ice hockey, and I boxed for four years. I think the biggest strength in my swing is that I have good natural speed and a pretty solid setup. My biggest weakness is that I can get a little “leany” on the way down–I slide laterally too far on the backswing, then lean toward the target starting down. Then I have to back up, and my left arm bends to try to recover.

Leadbetter: Ty’s swing is still a work in progress. His good hand-eye coordination lets him get his hands and the clubface into a good position at impact, with a lot of clubhead speed. The league he’s getting into now, he needs fewer compensations, simpler technique. For example, like a lot of youngsters, when he was little, he tried to generate power with a lot of leg movement. You can see his left heel still comes off the ground sometimes at impact. Now we’re trying to stabilize his lower body.

Tryon: One way I do that is to toe in my right foot a little–square it to the target line at address.

Leadbetter: That’s not for everybody. Someone who needs more turn might want to open that foot out. But Ty’s got a lot of flexibility, he creates a lot of leverage. The physics of his swing are what you want them to be.

Tryon: I have more efficient distance now–I’m about 30 yards longer than a year ago and I’m hitting it straighter, too. And if I keep working at it, I have confidence that my swing will be even better tomorrow.

COPYRIGHT 2002 New York Times Company Magazine Group, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group

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