AMERICAN CENTURY CHAMPIONSHIP | Barkley’s swing shows improvement Sunday
Ding dong the hitch is dead.
Through the first nine holes of his final round at the American Century Championship on Sunday, Charles Barkley’s notoriously hesitant golf swing got markedly smoother.
The former NBA great’s swing is still not reliable enough to prevent women and children from skittering for cover at an announcement Barkley is about to hit, but smooth enough to indicate the demons plaguing Barkley’s golf swing may have finally been exorcised.
The trick: changing everything.
Barkley, traditionally a right-hander, hit his driver and fairway woods left-handed on Sunday, hit most of his iron shots right-handed and even hit a few iron shots using only his right hand. His set of clubs contained mostly right-handed irons, a left-handed driver, left-handed fairway woods and one left-handed six iron.
The result was his worst round of the three day tournament, but one that was free of the cringe-inducing start and stop action by which his golf game has become known. Barkley also made unusually good contact throughout the first half of his round, regardless of whether the shots were left-handed, right-handed or single-handed.
“I’ve hit more good shots left-handed, then I’ve probably hit in the last year,” Barkley said while standing on the tee box at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course’s scenic 17th hole.
Barkley said he plans to stick with the left-handed tack.
“Next year, when he’s here, he’ll be a lefty,” said swing coach Hank Haney.
The switch-hitting style Barkley used Sunday was simply a way to take a “whole new approach” and build Barkley a better swing, Haney said.
Haney said he initially expected Barkley to begin playing golf as a full time left-hander in a matter of weeks, but moved forward during the celebrity golf tournament after Barkley began hitting a new, left-handed driver effectively at the Edgewood driving range.
The opposite-handed portion of Barkley’s Sunday didn’t always come easily. The six foot six inch Barkley complained his left-handed clubs were too short and admitted the unnatural stance was awkward.
“I don’t know how left-handed people survive, it’s the most uncomfortable thing in the world,” Barkley said prior to his second stroke on the 16th hole.
Shortly after the statement, he asked paramedics for a bandage to cover a blister on one of his hands that began to bleed slightly.
On the previous hole, Barkley jokingly compared himself to famous left-handed golfer Phil Mickelson when plotting a tricky shot through a small window in a group of trees.
Barkley almost relented after taking a second look, but ended up going for it after a gallery of sympathetic supporters encouraged him.
Naturally, his ball hit a large pine tree and ended up in the rough behind the same set of trees.
Later, Barkley said the left-handed technique will certainly “take time.”
Learning how to caddy for Barkley’s inconsistent play may also take some time.
Caddy Chris Detsch jokingly said Barkley may be blazing new ground when it comes to one-handed golf proficiency.
“I wish there was a tournament for that,” Detsch said. “We’d kick butt.”
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