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Phil Kenyon


Getting to know the coach of Champions

Phil Kenyon

This is the first of a four-part series covering Phil Kenyon at The Open.

There is often a paradox in golf coaching, particularly putting, where the universal truth of each player having a different swing or stroke is tossed aside for a one-size-fits-all philosophy. For Phil Kenyon, arguably the premier putting coach in the world, that could not be further from his reality.

A rare coach to have focused on one art of golf alone, Kenyon has mastered his craft, and has worked on putting with five of the last 10 Open Champions at some point in their careers.

One of the major reasons for the Englishman's success is his philosophy. Kenyon believes each and every individual has a different stroke, and each and every individual can make that stroke work for them.

"I guess anyone's coaching philosophy evolves over time,” Kenyon said. "And then through experiences, through knowledge and education, you start to develop your own way. At the moment I’m really trying to help the individuals.

“Players have different patterns, everyone comes with a different make-up, so (it's a case of) trying to work with that individual and work out their strengths and weaknesses, and try and formulate a plan relative to them.”

Kenyon has helped Darren Clarke, Henrik Stenson and Francesco Molinari to recent Open victories, while he has also worked with Rory McIlroy and Louis Oosthuizen since their respective triumphs.

Yet having grown up around the mecca of English links golf in Merseyside, Kenyon was connected to golf’s original major long before coaching its champions.

“My parents introduced me to the game when I was 10 or 11 years old. Both mum and dad were members at Hillside so it was a case of join them or be on my own at the weekend,” he explained.

As Kenyon began to improve, he dreamed of making it as a professional, and would often compete in qualifying for The Open.

"The Open is the greatest tournament in golf, for many different reasons,” he said. “It's the most open, so as a kid playing the game, trying to go through Final Qualifying, you had that romantic notion that you could qualify and go and play with some of the best players in the world, and you can still do that now. I often think I'll dust the clubs down one year and have another go.”

Kenyon soon realised that he couldn’t play on Tour to the standard he desired, so he looked to coaching. A friend of his parents, and one of the best putting coaches to have ever lived, Harold Swash, took Kenyon under his wing.

“Whatever techniques you're working on, fundamentally you've got to master three skills.” Phil kenyon

“Harold Swash, for me, has been a pioneer in putting instruction,” Kenyon said. “He was a close friend of my mum and dad, so I got to know Harold from an early age, spent a lot of time with him as a kid, playing golf and being around him.

“Harold was an engineer by trade, so back in the 70s he was designing golf clubs and in particular putters, and that generated a lot of interest in instruction, so he started to get involved in not only designing putters, but the theory of putting as well. Back in the day, Harold worked with a lot of players, (such as) Tommy Horton, Mark James and Nick Faldo.

“So when I then started to develop an interest in coaching, he said, 'well come and help me'. He was at an age where he was slowing down slightly and I'd always found Harold an interesting character and always enjoyed what he had been talking about. So it was just something I gravitated towards and when I had that opportunity to work more closely with him it was a no-brainer for me.”

Swash had a huge influence on Kenyon, one that has helped him understand exactly what it takes to putt well.

While players can favour their individual techniques, Kenyon, who is now the director and principal owner of Harold Swash Putting, believes they must achieve three key outcomes to have success.

"There are lots of different methods that you can apply, it's trying to find the appropriate method for the individual," he said. "Whatever techniques you're working on, fundamentally you've got to master three skills.

"Those skills are your ability to control the starting direction of the ball, your ability to control the speed and your ability to predict the break. If you can't master those three skills, I think you'd be limited in terms of your performance.

"So regardless of the technique you may use, which ever style of green reading, which ever style of technique to start the ball on line, you have to master those three skills. So any player that I would work with, it would be around developing that skill set and then finding the appropriate techniques to help them develop that."

Whether a player uses a heavy amount of wrist action like Bobby Locke or many Open Champions of old, or has their head perfectly still like Kenyon’s latest Open coaching triumph Molinari, anyone can have success in putting.

Kenyon has been able to adapt to his students. He tailors his approach to each individual and gives them the advice they need to hear rather than the advice he wants to give.

That skill of adaptability is often cited as a vital ingredient in Open victories, so it is no surprise to see the success Kenyon has had in coaching winners of the Championship.