Maverick’s medical status and swing changes to start his 7th season as a professional.
Hello from the beginning of my 6th season on the PGA Tour and 7th season as a professional! While season 5 on paper was not as planned, I think a lot of good things came from my past year.
I finished the season 127th in the FedEx Cup, 22 points short of the top 125 number required to maintain full status on the PGA Tour. However, because I took a medical exemption, I will be in the “major medical” category (medicals that lasted over 4 months) for the next 10 tournaments I play (a number decided by the number of tournaments I missed during that break). I have these 10 tournaments to earn the remaining 22 FedEx Cup points, in which case I would be in the major medical category for the remainder of the 2024 season.
This is a great category, falling immediately behind the top 125, so I would essentially have access to all regular, non-elevated tournaments as if I was #126. If I do not, I will play the rest of the season in the 126-150 category, and would probably get a handful of starts from that. An intermediate goal of mine would be to fulfill the medical before the PLAYERS in March, which would get me a start in that tournament. The same goes with the Charles Schwab Challenge in May.
My body feels great starting this season. A combination of PT, treatments, and swing changes have returned me to great playing condition. I have been able to play and practice as much as I wanted for the last 3 months now, playing 36 holes at full speed on several occasions.
I have continued to focus on shoulder and rotator cuff strengthening, upper posterior chain strength and mobility, and cervical/postural exercises. Adam Kerley, the PT I work with daily on the road, has allowed me to progressively feel better as a tournament week goes on, which is really exciting. And my PTs and trainers at Greathouse in Las Vegas have used shockwave therapy, dry needling and pretty much any shoulder exercise imaginable to get me back to full power. Safe to say I’ve put a little bit of wear and tear on those 2lb weights in the gym.
I would say the greatest growth of the past year has been in my understanding of my own golf swing. When consulting with doctors prior to the PRP treatment, they advised me that even if I were to repair the ligament, I would have to change my golf swing to not re-injure it.
For a while, I wasn’t sure what exactly hurt my left SC joint in the first place. All I knew was that virtually nothing hurt throughout my day other than making a golf swing. But thinking back, I am pretty confident it happened on the 7th teebox at MPCC during the AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble. There was a 45 minute wait on the tee, and it was far from warm. I had been experimenting with a feel in my golf swing, and my mechanics were far from good- and on the 7th tee, I made a cold, very stuck golf swing that just didn’t feel right. By the 11th fairway, it felt like a knife was sticking into my collarbone with every backswing.
Long story short, my team of PTs and trainers were able to patch me up, get me back out there and compete at a passable level, despite a tear in the ligament that connected my collarbone and sternum. I played through June, and only had one finish inside the top 50. It is a testament to their work that I was even able to play and make a few cuts along the way. But when I was hardly able to hit more than three drivers at home, I shut things down to try to get things sorted for the 2024 season.
But before I got my PRP injection in Boulder to expedite the healing process, I flew to Georgia to hit some balls with Scott Hamilton in his studio. The goal was to figure out how to swing without hurting myself, so that when my shoulder did get back to normal, I wouldn’t re-injure it. Turns out a few of my old swing habits that every coach of mine had been trying to keep in remission since high school were what was causing the strain on my left SC joint.
Scott’s 3D motion capture equipment showed me clearly that when my left shoulder worked up and in through impact, the golf swing hurt. If I managed to get it working down relative to my rib cage and around my body, the sc joint decompressed and felt amazing. The pattern that caused this was me being “steep” in several ways at the transition, then having to “shallow” really hard late into the ball. The steeper I got, the harder I’d have to shallow, and the more my shoulder hurt.
All of the stuff I’ve worked on with Butch and my previous coach Alex all started to make sense… especially in light of the swing feels I was trying to recapture at Pebble. In college, I had a feeling where I would keep my wrist angle set and hit balls with varying lengths of back and through swing, feeling like there was minimal movement with my head. Think Steve Stricker wedges. I tried to do this at Pebble, but didn’t realize that my college setup and backswing were all built around having a very shallow body shape (left side high, right side low). At Pebble, I not only was getting steeper with my body shape and club, but was way ahead of the ball in transition. It also made sense why my body felt great while Butch was having me load into my right side–a shallow position–before moving through to my left through the hit. I believe that this feel I was trying to capture was the straw that pushed that SC joint over the edge.
With all of that in mind, I now had a much clearer idea as to why my body hurt (and also why I couldn’t hit a flighted shot a cut that started far enough left). I needed to get shallow with my body and club, and keep that ball no further back than my left ear in the transition. This would allow me to “steepen” the club through the hit, exit left and around me, and take pressure off my shoulder. Not to mention, my contact and trajectory have improved immensely and my start lines are not nearly as far to the right!
I have always said it sometimes takes time for things to “click” in my mind. Things my coaches tell me can make sense anywhere from seconds to years after they say them. I have a much greater appreciation for the way Alex taught me through my amateur career and why it brought me so much success. Same goes for the way Butch has guided me through my professional career. And I really appreciate how Scott has allowed me to understand the finer details of how a club should work through the ball in a repeatable way, and a roadmap to make my body and golf swing more consistent in the future. This time away and injury have given me plenty of time to think, and a lot of things have clicked into place.
So, with all of that said, three days after PRP I was on the range hitting 10-15 balls about 50 yds with my brother’s 8i on the way to going shallow-to-steep. I’m sure my understanding of my golf swing will continue to evolve, but I’m really excited about the results I’ve seen and can’t wait to put them to the competitive test. I have really been able to learn from the best.
I’m looking forward to knocking off some more competitive rust this week in Hawaii, though being able to play the WWT in Cabo and RSM at Sea Island really helped with that. My planned upcoming schedule includes almost every non-elevated event: Sony, AmEx, Torrey, WM, Mexico, and Palm Beach. Hopefully I’ll be able to play my way into a few of the elevated events through the summer!
Finally, for the 6th season, I am going to donate $100 for every birdie I make all season long to Curriki, an education nonprofit focused on making the highest quality educational tools accessible to all who need them in K-12 education. Please join me by checking out birdiesforeducation.com, where we have raised over $1.28M since the Birdies campaign started in 2019. With the help of all of our amazing Birdies supporters, Curriki has been able to:
- build an interactive video player so students can engage with videos instead of passively watching them
- build easier-to-use authoring tools for teachers with ready-made layouts and templates
- launch several partners, such as Katy ISD, Baylor University, and the First Tee!
I will continue to post behind-the-scenes content here on the Birdies site, and please, join me in supporting a cause that I am very passionate about! With all the work this offseason, I’m excited to make a bunch of birdies this season!