James Hahn: Just show him what to do

One of the engaging characters on the PGA Tour is James Hahn. Winner of this year’s Northern Trust Open at Riviera in Los Angeles, he’s probably most famous to close followers of the Tour for his “Gangnam Style” dance steps after making birdie on the par-3 16th at the Phoenix Open. Gliding across the green, he looked just like the guy in the original video and it pretty much captures Hahn’s spirit:

Well, it turns out that learning through watching videos is one of Hahn’s talents. It first came up when he admitted to being self-taught when I originally posted this video back in March of 2014:  

So, I don’t have a swing coach that’s the number one thing.  I was going to YouTube a couple days ago and looking at some stuff and got some good swing tips from Seve Ballesteros, how he was swinging when he was swinging well back in the days and tried to make the same moves.

But the best are the slow motion videos:

Anything in slow motion, the Konica Minolta stuff is pretty good because you can see how bodies turn and how things react.

Really just trying to get some good visuals because I don’t have — I didn’t bring my camera out this week so I don’t know what it looks like.  Trying to get the feel of just a solid good set-up and good balance.

There you go folks. A solid good set-up and good balance goes a long way.

Fast forward to Thursday’s first round in the AT&T Byron Nelson where Hahn shot a tidy 5-under 65 for a T3 with local guy, Ryan Palmer. Steven Bowditch shot a career-low 8-under 62 to take the lead by two over the Texas Terror, Jimmy Walker. (I just made that up. He won the Texas Open in San Antonio earlier this year, the Sony Open in Hawaii at the beginning of the year and three tournaments in 2014 including Pebble Beach.)

For his part, Hahn is refreshingly still using YouTube videos to work on his game. This give-and-take in the media center just exudes his charm:

Q.  What was the impetus to change your ball flight on your draw — draw to a fade?

I got bored.  I was missing the ball left.  I like the extra distance off the tee but I do want to hit more fairways.  In order for me to be competitive I need to hit mores fairways.  I decided to hit a fade one day and just gone through that swing change right now.

Q.  When was that decision made?

I’d say Monday, Monday, Tuesday, Monday night looking at — on YouTube and played with Charl Schwartzel and has a great swing and I looked up his swing on YouTube and try to mimic some things he’s doing in his swing.

Q.  Seems kind of drastic.

It’s real easy.  No.  You go online.  I’ll have to tell you all about it.

Q.  Now self-taught, is that it?

Pretty much.  I feel like I can copy swings fairly easy.  It’s hard for me to learn if someone tells me what to do but if you show me what to do I feel like I can pick it up pretty fast.

Q.  Does he know he’s the motivation for your swing change?  Have you —

Probably not.  Depending on how it goes this week, it could be Charl one day and Justin Rose another day and just kind of go through the list.  There’s about a million swings on the Internet.  Just trying to figure out who is hot for the week.

Q.  Considering that you did make this change, are you a bit surprised that you played so well today?  It’s not like people generally change their swing and turn it around just like that.

The changes that I have been making aren’t so drastic.  It’s not like I’m doing the complete swing makeover.  It’s just tweaking some of my — some of the things that I’m doing in my swing where it’s the transition and ball position and alignment and just all the basics to hit a powerful fade.  I feel like any chance you can hit a fade the same distance as a draw and hit more fairways I think that’s definitely an advantage out here.

Q.  Did you get more distance today?

No, I did not.  My fades tend to rise up a little quick.  Lot of back spin.  Probably lost 8 to 10 yards off the tee.  But, then again, I’m hitting more fairways.  So, I’ll take that any day.

Q.  When is the last time you went with a fade swing?

I really can’t remember.  I know exactly a year ago at this tournament I was working on the same thing just trying to hit a fade and, you know, perfect example Hole 1 it’s a fade off the tee and Hole 3 is a fade off the tee.

The course kind of dictates what shots I need to hit off the tee and I just feel like this week was a good week to go ahead and make that change.

The big takeaway here is that Hahn obviously trusts himself. Aside from Padraig Harrington, I am unaware of a Tour player so cavalier about swing changes that he’s willing to make them on the spot. Oh, guys will suddenly come up with a “Eureka!” swing thought or feel from the past that they will suddenly latch onto and start climbing up the leaderboard, but it won’t be something drastic as changing from hitting a draw to a fade on the fly.

Martin Kaymer basically lost a year and a half when he went from hitting a fade to a draw. He wanted to be able to hit it both ways as the hole demanded and he didn’t want to leave anything to chance. He wanted total trust in it and it took him that long.

So while Hahn will be remembered with a smile for his dance on that 16th green, we shouldn’t forget the talent and curiosity that allows him to do it. But most important, we should always remember his adventuresome willingness to trust in his talent.

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