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Breaking Down Sergio Garcia’s Unique Footwork

Sergio Garcia broke through at the Masters, snapping a streak of 73 majors without a win.  The achievement was overdue largely in part to Sergio’s immense talent, long-considered one of the purest ball-strikers in golf.  As we like to do, we wanted to take the opportunity to look at his swing, specifically how he interacts with the ground.

The first thing golf instructors tend to mention about Sergio’s swing is his lag, but there are also two unique characteristics to be observed at impact and the top of the backswing.

Look at Sergio at the top here.  Notice the slight inversion of his trail ankle (photo from Zach Richardet’s blog)

Now compare Sergio’s position to that of Jason Day.

Thanks to the data we have of Jason on BodiTrak, we know that he gets a remarkable 95% of his pressure on his trail leg at the top of his backswing.  This is an incredible number and even more incredible considering that Day is able to do it while keeping both feet flat on the ground and with limited sway (for more on Jason Day’s swing, check out TPI’s Dave Phillips analyzing it using BodiTrak data).  Loading into the trail leg is a critical move for golfers.  Comparing Sergio with Jason is evidence that the same objective can be accomplished by different technique.

Dave Phillips just posted an analysis of Sergio’s swing, noting that golfers with limited hip mobility could consider copying his lower body mechanics.

Many golf instructors are wary of pressure getting to the outside of the trail leg at the top of the backswing, but, in Sergio’s case, he makes it work.  It would be fascinating to know how Sergio would perform on a TPI screen.  Jason Day is able to keep his feet flat, in part, because his hips are outrageously mobile.  Sergio’s ankle inversion might just be a technical nuance, but inverting his ankle slightly could also compensate for a limitation.

In an excellent feature for Golf.com, Sergio gives a thorough assessment of his swing thoughts, including keys to pressure/weight shift.

At address, Sergio advocates for balance.

I prefer an even weight distribution. I don’t think of favoring my weight over one leg or the other, or toward my heels or toes. The main thing is to feel balanced.

Once he’s loaded, he focuses on getting to his lead side on the downswing and through impact.

Once I complete my backswing, the only thing I really think about is getting my weight firmly onto my left side…  I like to feel that 80% of my weight is on my left foot as I swing into my finish. In fact, you should feel like your weight is on the outside of your left foot (notice how my left instep is off the ground), with your hips facing the target and your left shoulder “chasing” after the ball.

My legs are flexed and moving, but they’re never flying out of control. I strive for a smooth transfer of weight from the heel of my right foot to the heel of my left foot through the hitting zone. Some people will tell you to push off your right foot; I like to think of it as a “rolling” of weight from my right foot to my left.

On the downswing, Sergio talks about transferring weight into his lead heel, evidenced by the photo above.

As you keep your left foot on the ground, you should feel your left leg straighten, with your hip turn transferring all of your weight into your left heel. A posted left leg gives your hands and club something to sling past — like the crack of a whip — so you can contact the ball with maximum speed.

Contacting the ball with maximum speed is one of the gifts that has powered Sergio’s Hall of Fame career.  His swing isn’t particularly long, but he’s able to create elite ball speed by relying on incredible lag and a dynamic lower body move to create separation.  It’s been a pleasure to watch his brilliant ball-striking for the last 20 years and amazing to see him break through at the Masters.  Congrats, El Niño.