Pete Cowen – Backswing change key for Poulter

There has been a lot of talk about Ian Poulter in the last couple of weeks but we’ve been working hard on eradicating the shank and it’s great to have him back in the fold. It came as no surprise to see him up there at The Players Championship as it’s a course that suits his eye and we mustn’t forget that he finished runner-up to Stenson at TPC Sawgrass back in 2009.

Ian has a tendency to be too deep on the backswing but then he has to return to get into the back of the ball. Sometimes he goes back so far he pushes his arms away and presents the hosel to the ball.

You can’t stop that movement, you just have to put something in place to prevent it from happening. So we’ve worked on making the backswing more efficient and that’s the key to it all. Ian’s been working hard on the range and we started to see things pay off at Hilton Head. He drove and struck the ball great all week and if he had putted well he could have won the event.

Ironically, with all the confusion about Ian retaining his US PGA Tour card it was his result at Hilton Head that really changed his fortune.

Going forward, I believe that Ian is now hitting it better than ever but will we see the young Poulter performing well again on the greens? Even if he manages to putt reasonably well he will still win the odd tournament but if he gets the short stick working like it did in the early days, he will be right up there in the big events.

‘You can’t immedately stop what’s going wrong’

Another of my players who has fired back into form is Louis Oosthuizen. We’ve not worked on his swing but we’ve built in some new short game shots. We also reaffirmed what we worked on years ago, making sure he stays in position and doesn’t lose it.

Ian and Louis came close at Sawgrass but I was delighted also to see Alex Levy win the Volvo Championship in China. He’s only been with me since the start of the year. After the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, he came over to the academy in Rotherham for six days prior to flying out to China.

He knew he was playing great but I just made sure he understood what he does well.  People would point out to me what he was doing wrong in the swing. That’s not necessarily the problem. He’s just got to learn to make an action stop the reaction.

You simply can’t just immediately stop what is going wrong, you’ve got to go back two or three steps before you can halt the poor movement – just like we did with Ian Poulter. We had to wind up his backswing better and stay in balance, so he doesn’t get into that bad position that leads to a poor shot. With Alex I just worked on explaining how his body works in the golf swing. In the golf swing the body does three things:

  • The body is the engine. It helps to load the power and position the club on the backswing.
  • Then the body helps to reposition the club for the delivery, relative to the shot you want to play.
  • Then the body has to keep moving to stabilise your impact conditions. This is what we’ve got to teach all players.

The difference with Tour players is they are hugely gifted, naturally. Many have unbelievable hand and eye coordination. So they can make the smallest adjustments subconsciously to manipulate their body to strike the ball in the centre of the club.

What I try and do with the players is explain that, OK you can win an event through manipulation, but wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to rely on it. It should be regarded as a bonus and not a necessity.

The one player I coach who doesn’t manipulate is Thomas Pieters. He’s not been in action recently as he’s not a big fan of the events in Florida. He’s got a game plan and he’ll stick to it. He will not play any event just for the sake of it. He’ll merely enter the events he wants to play.

I see Rory has pulled out of a few events as a result of his re-occurring rib injury. People have asked if I think it’s down to spending too much time in the gym like Tiger did. There’s obsession and there’s dedication. I think Rory is trying to be totally dedicated to golf and sometimes it’s easy to cross that line into obsession, which then becomes the problem.

If you are into pushing hard in the gym you are definitely going to get injured at some stage. These guys are competing against Dustin Johnson, who is in his prime. As far as athleticism goes, he’s the Usain Bolt of golf. So if you are training hard in the gym to find that small percentage gain to compete, I will never knock players for trying to get better.

But they should remember, it’s a fine line between dedication and obsession.