Morgan Pressel: A tour player goes through a swing change

Morgan Pressel is coming more and more into the limelight again. She begins the final round of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic at Lake Merced Golf Club in San Francisco T2 and one shot behind young Canadian Brooke Henderson. This after a very slow start in the beginning of the year that had her mired at the back of the pack of players who made the cut. It’s been a night and day difference:

I mean, I remember standing over every tee shot last year thinking that the fairways are about five yards wide.  I spent a lot of time in the trees.  I hit a few drives that I didn’t like.

The difference is that she finally decided to get someone else to take a look, her new coach, Ron Stockman. That partnership produced her best finish of the year, a 3rd at the ANA Inspiration, the old Kraft Nabisco (nee, Dinah Shore; time marches on).

For the most part, I mean, the fairways look much wider to me this year. I guess that speaks to how comfortable I feel over the golf ball, too.

She described in general terms the way her swing has come around and specifically the new ball she’s put in play: 

Yeah, I mean, it’s come a long way.  A lot of things have happened.  I’ve certainly worked a lot on my golf swing with Ron, and I mean, I’m probably halfway there kind of in terms of halfway between my old swing and the swing where I would like it to be.

Parenthetically, the Golf Channel spent some quality air time at both the Kia Classic and the ANA Inspiration showing comparison videos. In the old swing, she would take her arms back inside and up while in the new swing, she just swings them up on the normal plane. A big change, but it’s going well:

But it’s repeatable enough for me, and I’m still continuing to work on it to where I can get out there and pick a target and commit to it.

I also, about the same time, switched golf balls to play the Callaway Chrome Soft.  Every time I play in the wind I just think that it performs — it certainly goes further in general under normal circumstances, but it’s probably one of the best wind golf balls I’ve ever played with.

Really, really feel like I have more control over it.  I mean, like I said, I just stand up there and I feel like I can commit to my targets more than I have been able to recently.  That’s a big deal.

But the thing I found most interesting was what her process was to transition to the new swing. Having done that on more than one occasion, I’m always interested in how others managed to get it done.

As is true for most professionals, she got through the heavy lifting in a couple of weeks. But she knew that that’s the easy part. The hard part is to make sure that you don’t backslide to the old swing habits. She was pretty diligent about it:

For me, it probably took me about two weeks.  The first week of the change I was severely in the middle.  Totally uncomfortable with it.

I’ve really, really worked hard.  I’ve been very diligent on the range.  A lot of it has to do with my tempo so I can get into the right place.  I’ve put in a lot of time to try to get it where I would like it to be.

I video my swing almost every day and just kind of keep tabs on it.  I know I regresses a little bit on the golf course, but that’s natural where your tendencies kind of come out under pressure.

I also can self‑correct.  When I hit a shot, I know what I need to do to fix it on the next one.

In the meantime, golf being a game of a flapping tent without enough stakes, she and her caddie, Brock, discovered that her ball position had moved too far forward with her wedges:

Yeah, I mean, I probably play the balls further back I think than most players.

But it’s something that Brock actually reminds me on every wedge shot over the last couple weeks, because it started to get a little too far forward and I swung too much up on it. I’ve always played the ball back, and a little bit back of center is the most comfortable place for me.  I can really compress the golf ball.

So, since my lesson last week revealed that my grip had grown too weak and my ball position had moved too far back, I can say with confidence, find yourself a good coach and visit him or her with some regularity just as Morgan has done.

I had scheduled the lesson because my coach, Dale Abraham, is moving on in his career and I wanted him to take a last look. He has been so helpful in our time together. But as I was warming up for the lesson, I probably hit as many shanks as good balls. It was otherworldly.

But as is true of most good coaches, within an hour he discovered (and trickier yet, convinced me) that my grip had indeed grown weak. And then that the ball position thing. And now I can’t wait to play until Wednesday, but I must. That anticipation is one of my favorite characteristics of the game.

Nice work, Dale. Good luck on your new path.

And good luck to Morgan on Sunday. You may recall that she was one of the players I interviewed at this year’s Founders Cup for my piece on anger. She was very willing, gracious with her time and quite thoughtful. Nice work, Morgan.

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