Perfect Swing
Mighty Casey

The power game of Paul Casey
By Peter Kostis

I followed Paul Casey’s progress as a player well before we met for the first time in person. I noticed the scores he was shooting
at Arizona State University and in PAC-10 tournaments, and was impressed because he had that ability to periodically post those 61s and 62s. That is a quality I look for in a professional player, because it means he’s not afraid to go low. When he graduated from college, he happened to sign with the same sports management company that represents me, and we were introduced. We hit it off pretty quickly, and have been working together ever since. Paul obviously has a lot of talent as a golfer, but he is also a rock solid kid. Although he’s British, he really is the all-American boy, the kind of kid a father would love to see his daughter bring home. So it is also a pleasure to work with him on a personal level.

As a player, power is definitely his strong suit. He’s only 5’ 10" and maybe 180 pounds, but he hits the ball every bit as far as Tiger Woods. And he has the same kinds of shots, like those high, soft, 250 yard 2-irons that are just a beauty to behold. He has huge forearms and arms. As a kid, he did a lot forearm exercises with a weight and a broomstick handle to build up that strength in his hands, wrists and arms. But I’m convinced that someone either has it in his genes or doesn’t, though, to hit the ball a long way. You have to work on your technique to maximize those abilities, but Paul would have been a power player in any sport he chose, not just golf.

When we first started working together, he had some problems fundamentally. His grip was flawed in that the right hand was rolled way too far underneath. He would tend to get the club too far to the inside, and the club would come across the line at the top, with the face a little bit shut—that is one of the reasons he hits it so far, incidentally. The club would kind of twist around his body and he had a lot of extra moving parts that were unnecessary. We immediately modified his grip and posture, then started working on his swing plane, to get that more neutral as well. On a day-to-day basis,
we focus primarily on the fundamentals—grip, posture, and plane. Simple, yet incredibly difficult stuff. Now his grip is much more neutral, and the position of his club at the top of the backswing is excellent.

Paul is also working very hard on his physical conditioning. At this point in his career,
he has to gain more flexibility in certain parts of his body in order to allow himself to do the kinds of things we want him to do with the golf swing. If he doesn’t continue his physical development he will not make any more golf swing improvements—it’s that simple. Most people look at a swing flaw and think it’s just something that needs to be ironed out, but in reality it is often directly related to a physical limitation. When the body will not allow you to reach a certain position—whether it’s because your hamstring is too tight, your hip is too tight, or whatever the case may be—it will always find a way to make a compensation, and that usually compounds the original problem. So it’s imperative, especially for elite players, to get the body neutralized and in a position where they can attempt to do the things they know they need to do to improve. He does a lot of stretching and core conditioning aimed at building hip and leg flexibility.
He works a lot with a physical therapist in Scottsdale, but he really likes the kinds of exercises and aids that he can take on the road with him.

He has already made tremendous progress, but it really is a neverending process. We assess his weaknesses and try to turn them into strengths. With that in mind, we are planning to work hard this offseason on his short game. We both belong to a club in Scottsdale called Whisper Rock, and we’ll go out on the course and work on a particular shot with a particular technique. And then we will just stay there with a large bucket of balls, and we’ll just have contests for a bottle of wine—to see who can hole the most bunker shots, for example. The things we have worked on to get him from Arizona State to this point in his career are the very same things that will take him to the next level. It’s not like all of a sudden when you reach the PGA Tour you have to drop everything and work on something new.

Paul felt very comfortable on the European Tour coming into 2004, and he’s slowly beginning to develop that feeling in America as well. He had a 10th place finish at the Tournament Players Championship and a sixth place at the Masters, so he feels like he belongs on the world stage. The Ryder Cup only enhanced that perception. The bottom line is that he has the ability to become a world class player. There are probably half a dozen names that immediately spring to mind—Tiger and Phil, Ernie, Vijay, and Davis—and I think Paul has all the potential to end up in that same elite group.

I have mentioned how Paul hits the ball a mile, but all that comes with a crucial caveat. As powerful as he is, he does not use 100 percent of what is available to him. That is the key. He’s obviously very strong, but the reason he hits it so far is that he hits it solidly in the center of the club face. If you can’t do that, you are never going to maximize your distance potential. His swing is very simple—he just makes his move and repeats it, time and time again. Average players could learn a lot from watching his swing—unfortunately, average players can be just plain dumb. Their egos tend to get in the way, and they don’t have to put rounds together over four days. On the other hand, I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing. They can go ahead and overswing on a certain hole, and if they happen to catch it, they get to go back to the bar and tell their buddies that they blasted it over the bunker on No. 6. And that’s cool for them— it’s a big reason why they play the game. Contrast that with taking a 3-wood and laying up to the left, having a little bit of a longer iron in and perhaps a chance for birdie. Yet that is the essence of the heroic shot—and as long as you’re willing to accept the consequences, go for it!

Peter Kostis is well known as a commentator and "Swing Doctor" for CBS Sports coverage of the PGA Tour. With his colleague Gary McCord, he runs one of the country’s premier golf schools in Scottsdale, Arizona.


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