First of all, I’d recommend reading Adam Schupak’s extensive Q&A with Brandel Chamblee in its entirety over at Golfweek! Below, we’re just focusing on a specific bit.
Earlier this week, Brandel Chamblee raised some eyebrows when he told Golfweek that more careers are ruined than are helped between Monday and Wednesday on a PGA Tour range. He touched on over-coaching at several different points in the three-part interview, questioning some players’ need for change while praising the constancy of Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele, who continue to employ their original swing coaches: their fathers.
But perhaps Chamblee’s sharpest words were reserved for Jordan Spieth. Spieth’s fall-off has been well-documented, particularly the decline of his driving accuracy and iron play. Plenty of analysts have guessed that Spieth has something going on mentally; Chamblee has argued that it’s merely a mechanical issue.
“What’s going on with Jordan Spieth?” Chamblee asked in his Golfweek interview. “He’s had the same coach, but that coach is teaching him differently.” (Spieth’s longtime swing coach is Cameron McCormick.)
Chamblee pulled out his phone to illustrate the differences between Spieth’s swing in 2015 (one of the greatest major championship seasons in modern history) and 2020, the week the interview was conducted.
First, the 2020 swing. I don’t know what photos he was showing, but I’ve supplied a couple below that illustrate the same point. Here were Chamblee’s observations:
1. “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.”
2. “The net result of that is, watch this club in transition…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.”
To simplify: Spieth’s left knee goes out over his toes, his center of gravity shifts and he loses some balance and control. As a result, Chamblee says, Spieth’s rotation gets messed up and his swing path gets steeper in transition.
Okay, so how about 2015?
1. “First of all, watch his left knee,” Chamblee says. “It will not kick out early.” Rather than bending out over the end of his toes, Spieth’s knee remains more over his laces. This, Chamblee says, gives him more trunk balance.
2. “Now watch then he gets up to the top,” Chamblee says. “Watch where the club goes. You see that. See who 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?”
Here’s Chamblee’s argument, boiled down as best I can: In 2015, Spieth’s body positions led to better balance and allowed him to lay the shaft in a better position. He never should have changed. It’s a point Chamblee has been making for at least a year when he pointed to Spieth’s inconsistent ballstriking on Twitter (Side note: Another thing that’s changed? Spieth has lost his “trigger,” both in his swing and in his putter, as Luke Kerr-Dineen outlined here.)
The best part of Spieth’s game right now is his putting, as his ball striking has fallen off substantially. Almost last in accuracy (212th) matters when one is not amongst the longest. Many diff. in his swing from 2015(on L) shorter, more flex rt leg at the top, crowding the ball pic.twitter.com/TfLEU55KVa
— Brandel Chamblee (@chambleebrandel) February 21, 2019
Chamblee implied to Golfweek that either Spieth or McCormick decided to chase distance, which he deemed a foolish pursuit. “You are already doing from 175 what guys hope to do when they get to 150,” Chamblee said. “You have negated the distance disadvantage that you’re at.”
Not so much in 2020, where the ball-striking stats are ugly. 227th in driving accuracy. 221st in greens in regulation. 195th in strokes gained off the tee. 198th in strokes gained approaching the green. Wind back the clock to 2015 and Spieth was 15th off the tee and 11th approaching the green — and those weren’t even his best categories. Plus, he led in a few important ones: scoring average, FedEx Cup points, money earned, world rank. Good categories to lead in.
Enter Chamblee’s critique in Golfweek.
“There’s consequences to these movements,” he said. “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.
“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.”
To receive GOLF’s all-new newsletters, subscribe for free here.