The Winning Touch
The athletic swing of Michael Campbell
by Jonathan Yarwood

I first began working with Michael Campbell at the end of 1997. A wrist injury had sent his
ranking down to 371 and he didn’t have a card to play in Europe or the United States. He was struggling to find his swing, trying to recapture
his form from 1995, when he finished in the Top
10 on the European money list and led the British Open after the third round.

Initially, when we first met, we talked about his swing and developed a "blue print" for his frame.
He has a great physique for golf—he’s strong and stocky with a low center of gravity—and he is athletic. We created a very simple and efficient swing, one that works on a single plane back and down, as opposed to Nick Price or Nick Faldo,
who have two distinct planes. We wanted one axis, not a lot of movement in his body, not a lot of changes in the direction of his club. Quite like Tiger used to swing.

I have always thought that a swing is like an unfinished painting. We are always improving, tweaking and studying more about it. Before the U.S. Open, we focused on creating more resistance in his right side at the start of the swing to allow the club to swing up and on plane sooner. We want him to feel everything is in sync so that he can attack the ball off of the tee without pulling it. When he turns early with the right side, his right arm gets behind him and his swing gets quite long and he loses his balance. If Michael, or any player at this level starts driving badly, it’s difficult to score.

We have also worked on his short game and added some new shots to accommodate different courses and different conditions. Now he has a variety of chips with different spins on them—the normal crisp stop chip, cutting the ball, adding topspin or a little overspin, lots of variety. What happens in big tournaments is the pins are tucked into impossible positions, so by using subtle spins you increase your landing area to get close. And his lob shots are more consistent. Most people think you take a big long swing and cut it, but Michael actually takes a short swing and scoops on the way through, which is good under pressure because there are fewer moving parts.
The week of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, Michael showed up with a belly putter—he was unhappy with his putting. So we fiddled around and went through our system of putting, which for us consists of filming the ball, recording the performance of the ball and creating a good stroke from there. When we checked his stroke that Monday, there were more than a few things wrong—the ball had a lot of topspin and appeared to launch off of the putter. We set him up differently, locked in his arms, moved the ball forward and flattened his left wrist. All of this helped create more of an arc stroke, reduced the launch on the ball and resulted in more online putts.

The problem for professional golfers on Tour is finding time to make changes. Changes take time for anyone and it’s hard to work on things during the tournament schedule. With Michael, we have video files of his swing from over the years when he is swinging well, and we compare them. We also have technology where he can send us a streaming video of his swing over the Internet for me to check when he is on Tour and I am in Florida. Once we find the problem, we give him feedback and send him a video of his good swings.

Throughout this process, achieving small goals have been the key to success. When I first started working with him, our first goal was to regain his card back in Europe, and then to contend in Tour events. After falling short on several occasions, he finally got his first European Tour win in 1999—the Johnnie Walker Classic. The next year he finished fourth on the money list in Europe.

When he won the U.S. Open this year, the whole country of New Zealand came to a standstill. Even Parliament had a three hour recess so they could watch what was called the single greatest moment in New Zealand sports history. This victory lead to our next major goal, which was trying to validate what he did in the U.S. Open. Going to the British Open several weeks later and playing much better than he finished—he didn’t hole a lot of putts, have much luck or play as well as he did at Pinehurst—but a top ten finish was great to validate his U.S. Open victory. And we all feel that the best is yet to come.

Jonathan Yarwood has coached for 13 years and is an instructor at the In-sync Golf Academy in Sarasota, Florida. Yarwood is a Leadbetter-certified teacher who has coached at all professional Majors in the last five years, and holds the distinction of teaching winning players on all four major tours around the world.

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