Brandel Chamblee Q&A Part II: Fixing Jordan ‘in 2 seconds’; questioning Rickie’s coaching change, praising Tiger?


It started with a simple question from my wife. “Ask Brandel if he thinks Matthew Wolff’s swing is sustainable,” she suggested, and with that Brandel Chamblee of Golf Channel and I went down a rabbit hole, touching on an array of topics.

You can read Part I here. In part II, Chamblee digs in to why he’s not sold on Rickie Fowler’s coaching change, what’s wrong with Jordan Spieth, and who’s really coaching Tiger Woods these days.

It’s Chamblee breaking it all down in his inimitable fashion and much, much more.

GW: Do you still think the most dangerous place on the PGA Tour is the range from Monday to Wednesday?

BC: Yeah that’s where more careers end on the PGA Tour than are helped. You start to watch players that change teachers, like they’re going along nicely with a teacher.

GW: Rickie Fowler has recently changed coaches to John Tillery and he says, “I just needed a new set of eyes.” What do you make of that?

BC: You know, I think that is so dangerous. It is so dangerous. Rickie has been an extraordinary player and having an amazing career, just on the cusp of superstardom. His coach (Butch Harmon) retires and is no longer going to Tour events, which means now you have to get on a plane and fly to Las Vegas to see him. So get on a plane and fly to Vegas or send him video. Rickie had roughly seven, eight years with a coach who helped him immediately become a better player. There wasn’t an incubation period necessary and he immediately got better.

Rickie Fowler at the 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. Photo by Rob Schumacher/ USA TODAY Sports

GW: In general, do you think it is better for a player to ride it out with the same coach if they aren’t showing improvement or perhaps regressing?

BC: Let me start by saying that John Tillery is a very good coach, but I think if you look at how a player plays his best golf and like Jordan Spieth, what’s going on with Jordan Spieth? He’s had the same coach but that coach is teaching him differently. You look at Jordan Spieth’s movements and I’ll do this today on the show, but you look at Jordan Spieth’s movements, and now this is Jordan Spieth yesterday on the 11th fairway (pulls up video on his phone). I want you to watch two things. Watch his left knee right when he takes the club away. You see where it goes, it’s already out to his toes. Whenever your knee goes out that quickly you lose trunk balance and your body will move towards the target and you’ll have to make compensations. The net result of that is, watch this club in transition, OK, watch it right there and so you see the butt end of the club, it goes back, it doesn’t go out towards the ball, that club should go out towards the ball in transition. So as a result his shaft steepens right there and doesn’t shallow, OK.

Jordan Spieth at the 2019 Northern Trust at Liberty National Golf Course. Photo by Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports

Now, just to compare that, just to give you some idea what it used to do, this is an iron. This is 2015 (pulls up another video on his phone). First of all, watch his left knee. It will not kick out early, OK, it is still. Now his left knee is over his shoe strings, OK, it’s not to his toes. It does kick out, but I’m talking about to there (indicating his left knee) on the other swing is already out over his toes. The club shaft is parallel to the ground. So he’s got better trunk balance. Now then watch when he gets up to the top. Watch where the club goes. You see that. See when it first moves down the club, moves out towards the ball and the shaft lays down? See how the shaft lays down behind it? See that? His club when he transitions doesn’t lay down behind, it steepens, this is shallowing it, OK. You don’t see that. You look at it and you say why is he playing crummy? He’s almost last in every statistical category. You can look at in ball striking when he was almost first in every statistical category.

There’s consequences to these movements. You cannot change the engine pattern. (The video from 2015) is how Jordan plays his best golf. Why would his teacher tell him to change that? Why? He’s either being told to do that or whoever’s watching him doesn’t see that he’s doing that. That would take two seconds to fix. Two seconds. But he’s clearly been told that or somebody’s watching him who is not aware.

Jordan Spieth should be a better player than he was in 2015 by experience alone. What did he need to do to that golf swing in 2015? He almost won every major he played in. So this necessity to always be changing is just, every game is in a constant state of repair or attack of ideas.

GW: All it takes is a degree of change and before you know it, it’s enough that you’re searching for your swing, right?

BC: He didn’t need to change anything. All he needed to do was go to the range and work on shots. Did he have every shot in the bag? I doubt it.

GW: Do you think Jordan chased distance?

BC:  Yeah, it sounds like he or (Cameron) McCormick, they chased distance. Why would he need to chase distance? Why? The reason you chase distance is to get it out there far enough that you can get past the area where you hit shots with the greatest dispersion. That’s why you want to hit it farther because if you get past that 150-to-200 range or 175-to-225 range, where the greatest dispersion is, and all of a sudden you get into the 125-to-150 range, where there is hardly any dispersion. That’s why you chase distance. But if you are from 175 (yards) the best in the world, you don’t need to chase distance; you are already doing from 175 what guys hope to do when they get to 150. You have negated the distance disadvantage that you’re at. He was already there. He didn’t have to do anything. Plus, he chipped better and putted better than anybody else.

GW: Do you think Tiger’s really is his own coach these days?

BC: I think he takes the counsel of Notah Begay and I think John Cook, who talks to Jamie Mulligan, and Notah talks to Chris Como. Notah talks to everybody. But I think what Tiger did was, it’s as it simple as he picked up the book that he wrote in 2001 and he used it as a blueprint and he went back there.

Tiger Woods laughs with Notah Begay on the range during the 2017 Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. Photo by Ryan Young/PGA Tour

GC: You told me previously that Notah told Tiger that his own book is all he needs, right?

BC: That’s right. Notah’s a good friend and a really bright guy and Tiger, of course he doesn’t have the same body that he had in 2000, but who would know more about the golf swing than Tiger Woods? And who was more capable of putting all the pieces together to swing like Tiger Woods in 2000 than Tiger?

I used his swing from 2003 on Golf Channel because he won the Farmers (Insurance Open) in 2003 and compared it to 2020 (at Farmers), and they’re identical other than the fact that he swung 10 miles an hour faster in 2003 because he could extend his legs and turn faster. But they’re the same exact golf swing.

Tiger has learned a lot from everybody. He had great sort of fundamental understanding of the history of the game with Butch and shot making, and I think Hank Haney helped him learn about strategy and no 3-putts and no doubles. Sean Foley took him down the rabbit hole of movement patterns and cause and effect and I think Chris Como helped put all those pieces together so he’s had this master education and he doesn’t need an instructor.

I mean who would be better equipped to help Tiger than Tiger?

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