Last tournament, Tiger Woods looked like the Tiger we used to know. This tournament was the first in a long time in which he put together four consecutive rounds of good golf. Sure he struggled a bit on Saturday during the 3rd round at Memorial, but he still remained in contention. On Sunday, with that red shirt giving him the attitude and determination that it used to, Tiger came from behind to win at Memorial. Not only did he win, but won for the 73rd time in his career to tie Jack Nicklaus for 2nd all time. How fitting for him to do so on the course designed by Nicklaus himself and in spectacular fashion coming from behind.
His final round performance was vintage Tiger. Starting four shots behind the leader, Levin, Tiger started hot out of gates, birding 4 of the first 7 holes leaving him one shot behind the leader at 8 under par. After a couple of bogeys during the next few holes, Tiger was 2 shots back of the leader, Spencer Levin. Shortly after Tiger’s second bogey on the day, Levin’s swing collapsed and Rory Sabbatini took over the lead on the 12th hole at the Memorial with a birdie. Holding his 2-shot lead through 14 holes and in the group behind Tiger, he was looking like the clear favorite to win the tournament. However, on the 15th hole, Tiger decided to do what Tiger does/did best. Just win.
On the par-5 15th hole, Tiger started off with a monster drive giving him the opportunity to reach the green in two and then two putt for an easy birdie, which he did. Leaving him on back behind the leader, Tiger headed to arguably the hardest hole of the tournament (the 13th was a real b****). Needing to make something happen, Tiger went for a risky shot, with the wind, and ended up overshooting the green into the long cut. His lie was poor. It looked like he was going to struggle to make par with the water hazard sitting there waiting to snatch up Tiger’s ball. Then this happened…
Jack Nicklaus later described this shot as the most incredible shot, under the circumstances, that he has ever seen. As for Tiger, it fired him up like in the good old days. You know, the days when he would win just about every tournament? After that shot, you just knew he was going to win. Sure enough, after a Sabbatini bogey on the 16th (even though he nearly chipped in from the bunker), Tiger could close it out on the 18th with a birdie. Like he had done so many times in the past, Tiger landed his second shot on the back right slope of the green and let the ball do its thing and roll to within 8 feet. From their Tiger finished it up with a birdie putt, lifting his putter up with his left hand as the ball fell into the cup.
After every win, the same question comes up: is Tiger Woods back? It’s really a stupid question because there is no way he can get back to that level. Why you might ask? Because his personal life is at an all time low still or at least pretty close to it. I mean the man was in a slump, a deep slump, after his whole scandal thingamajig.
Winning isn’t going to come that often anymore, but is he still going to catch Jack Nicklaus’ major titles record? Probably. But only because you can play golf until you are about 60 and still have a decent chance at winning. Don’t get me wrong, this was a great win for Tiger and his fans, myself included, but it’s time to face the music or however that saying goes. The old Tiger Woods is gone forever. But the new Tiger can still bring back excitement to golf.
PS – What is so wrong with him and other players getting mad when they make a bad shot or miss a big putt? I mean haven’t you seen Happy Gilmore? People kill for that s***.
Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal released a very interesting article about an
interview with Butch Harmon regarding Tiger Woods. Butch was Tiger’s swing coach from 1993 to 2004 and has coached some of the game’s best players such as Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, and Nick Watney. The time Butch spent with Tiger has been arguably deemed Tiger’s most successful and dominant era of his career.
The article describes Butch’s perspective on Tiger’s recent struggles. He essentially says the same thing he said on David Faherty’s show a couple weeks back which is that Tiger needs to get back to just playing golf rather than focusing on his golf swing. Butch has always been regarded as the greatest teacher of all time. Though, when asked what’s wrong with Tiger, he doesn’t start explaining his theories about the golf swing and what’s right and what isn’t right about Tiger’s current golf swing. Instead, Butch says that Tiger needs to just go to the range by himself and work on hitting golf shots. As Butch puts it in the article, “Quit playing golf-swing and just hit shots.”
As you may read from my last article about Bubba Watson, I’m a huge advocate of playing golf by feel. There’s no doubt that sound swing mechanics are important to playing great golf, however, you can’t forget your primary objective when you’re on the golf course which is to just get the ball in the hole by all means necessary! Players like Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson are successful because they just focus on hitting golf shots rather than perfecting their golf swing.
I had a lot more success earlier on in my own golfing career throughout the beginning of High School because I had little knowledge of golf swing mechanics. I had only been playing golf for a year or two and all I tried to do was focus on hitting each golf shot the way I visualized it in my head. However, once I started focusing solely on perfecting the mechanics of my golf swing, I found myself struggling to shoot decent scores. I realized that I was solely thinking about my golf swing instead of actually playing the game.
One drill that my coach used to do with me to get me away from swing mechanics was he would have me set up to hit a golf shot, and yell in the middle of my downswing what shot he wanted me to hit. He could yell everything from “high draw,” to “low fade,” to even more ridiculous shots such as “top it!” To my complete surprise, I was able to perform every shot he asked of me (including the “top it” request) despite being in the middle of my golf swing.
The drill taught me that you don’t have to have perfect mechanics to hit specific golf shots. Your mind can tell your body what to do even with less than a seconds notice. The drill helped return feel to my game and helped me step away from only focusing on mechanics. Give the drill a try, you might surprise yourself!
I’ll close this article in saying that I agree with what Butch had to say about Tiger. Unfortunately, I don’t think Tiger will become competitive in any major tournaments until he becomes less mechanical in his approach towards the game. Butch says Tiger is too “Robotic” which detracts from his natural talent to hit golf shots under pressure. The full Wall Street Journal article described above can be read at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303425504577355913365616018.html.
So Tiger didn’t win the Masters….he didn’t even come close, finishing at 5 over (293) and 15 shots out of the lead. But, I still believe in Tiger and I still believe that he will win multiple tournaments this year. The PGA Tour needs Tiger, and in turn Tiger needs the Tour. There is so much more hype over golf when Tiger is competing and contending. His win at Bay Hill might have been luck and may have been a tease…but I refuse to believe it was.
Not to take anything away from Bubba Watson and his road to winning the Green Jacket, but Tiger in my opinion is still the main and most important story from the Masters. Where Tiger dominated two weeks previous, he seemed uninspired at Augusta. He wasn’t striking the ball well, he was getting obviously frustrated, and his putting was again as it has been before, an incredible disappointment.
The fire and dominance Tiger had at Bay Hill wasn’t there in Georgia, and as Tiger said himself “It was an off week at the wrong time.” Although many want to claim Tiger is washed up and at the end of his career, last weekend was just what Tiger said, he had a bad week. Michael Jordan had games where he scored 40 to follow it up with a game where he scored 10. We cannot judge Tiger’s Augusta showing to what he still has left in the tank.
Tiger recently committed to play at the Wells Fargo Championship, which begins May 3, and then the Player’s Championship the following weekend. I could not be more pleased with Tiger’s decision to take the next couple weeks off to work on areas he needs to improve. There is no doubt in my mind Tiger will put in the work the next two weeks and tweak and correct the problems that hurt him in the Masters, and in doing so clear his mind from all possible distractions.
Maybe being a favorite for Augusta drained him or maybe even pressured him. For goodness sakes he is human and can and does feel stress and nerves like everyone else. This time off will benefit Tiger more than it will hurt him, and I fully expect him to be mentally, physically and emotionally ready for the Wells Fargo tournament.
There are millions of Tiger haters out there who love watching him fail…I am not one of them. For the PGA Tour sake, for the sake of golf in America, and especially for Tiger, I cannot wait to watch red and black compete again in two weeks. Only this time at the level I was hoping for at the Masters.
Golf isn’t like football or basketball when you have an off day. In golf you don’t have your teammates and coaches there to pick you up like you do in other sports. Thursdays through Sundays, it is Tiger against the field, but what makes golf so special is it is more importantly Tiger versus Tiger. Come May 3, Tiger will prove why he is Tiger Woods and show the world why he is one of the best to ever play this game.
After a dramatic Sunday finish, Bubba Watson became the 2012 Masters’ Champion. Bubba has become one of the most famous and well-liked personalities on tour. He’s one of the longest hitters, has an extremely unorthodox golf swing, and has one of the biggest personalities in the media. The truth of the matter is that none of these branding traits have stuck out to me more than his talent as a shot maker. Bubba has always made it clear that he is a feel player, which can be easily deducted by just analyzing his golf swing alone. His long and loose golf swing would give any swing instructor a reason to give up teaching. It is completely reliant on perfect timing and raw talent. From his bright pink driver to his all white outfits, it’s clear that Bubba loves labeling himself as a rebel.
As demonstrated by his dramatic second shot from the pine straw on the second playoff hole at the Masters, he has the ability to hit golf shots that even Tiger Woods would have trouble pulling off. Growing up, Bubba taught himself how to hit swooping fades and slinging draws around a net in his backyard, hence where he learned to become an incredible shot maker. Bubba almost never hits a dead straight shot, which is a trait shared by all great ball strikers. He simply plays the game of golf rather than overcomplicates it. He isn’t concerned with swing mechanics or lesson plans. All he focuses on is hitting the golf shot he sees and letting his body do the rest of the work. He’s demonstrated this ability time and time again. In fact, it was just a couple weeks ago where Bubba hit an impossible shot from the tree line that faded against the wind into the 18th green at Doral from 180yds out only to end up about 12 feet away from the cup. Bubba is able to put mechanics aside and just let his body do the work.
During the green jacket ceremony, Bubba mentioned that he “didn’t remember the entire back side.” What he meant by this comment was that he remembers being on the course during the back nine, but he doesn’t remember physically hitting the golf shots he did that helped him eventually win the Masters’ title.
Tiger has alluded to this feeling of “blacking out” as well where you reach an intense mental state of pure focus and concentration. Many athletes have had their own experiences with this feeling of mental bliss and will usually refer to it as “the zone.” In fact, I personally have experienced the moment Bubba described. Back when I was a sophomore in High School, I had just started playing the back nine of the State Championship after shooting an atrocious 41 on the front nine. Besides a few blurs of walking in between shots, I don’t remember any of the golf shots I hit during my second nine. After signing my scorecard, I realized that I had shot 1 under par on the back, the low back 9 score for the entire tournament, and finished in a tie for 5th. It was the best golf I have ever played in my entire life and the best way I can describe this state of ultimate mental concentration is you feel as though you are watching yourself play in the tournament rather than actually being there. It’s as if your body takes complete control and your standing on the sidelines watching yourself play the game.
Bubba personifies this experience with the way he plays the game of golf. He’s less of a thinker and more of a doer, which is a concept that can benefit a lot of golfers. If there’s anything you should take away from Bubba’s victory at the Master’s it’s that don’t let yourself get caught up in expectations or swing mechanics--just play the game.
I feel like I am one of the very few who can say I love the PGA Tour. There’s nothing better than waking up Thursday mornings and catching a couple of holes before getting the day going. I love cooking some eggs and watching Phil, Rory and the field compete for 18 holes to decide who gets to bring home that trophy and that million plus dollar check.
But what has been missing the last couple of years has been watching the field crumble while Red and Black is thriving. With the destruction of Tiger’s career a couple years back, we all also watched the destruction of the PGA Tour. But last weekend we saw the rebirth of Tiger, which is going to lead to the resurgence of Golf Thursdays through Sundays. What we saw last weekend was Tiger doing what he does best, Winning.
Last weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational we witnessed what the sporting world has been missing for over 3 years. Tiger dominated the event shooting under par all four days and capped his Sunday shooting a 70 and totaled a 275 (13 under) and winning by five shots over Graeme McDowell. Tiger looked thrilled, relieved, and most importantly dominant throughout the weekend, especially on the 18th green as he walked off victorious.
Tiger was striking the ball well off the tee as usual. He was finishing off his holes with intelligent yet aggressive approach shots, minus a couple poor bump and runs that rolled 20+ feet from the pin. But most importantly he putted well, in fact he putted uncharacteristically well. Putting has always been a problem for Tiger, but over the weekend it was his putter that saved him. He turned bogies into pars, and pars into birdies. He led the field in greens hit in regulations and in classic Tiger style went 12 under over the weekend on the par-5s.
With Augusta National right around the corner you can expect the 4-time winner is going to be a favorite, especially how he played last weekend. If Tiger can take this momentum and confidence and continue to build off it, all of you golf enthusiasts can assume Tiger is back. It is not going to be a walk in the park by any means. Augusta is not Bay Hill. Bay Hill was not an easy course last weekend, but Augusta is a different beast. Missing long, poor approach shots, and streaky putting tend to be the downfalls for golfers in Georgia, and Tiger has had problems in all three aspects throughout his career even when he was the Tiger of old.
But I believe Tiger is going to show the world that he still has it, and that Jack Nicklaus’s record is by no means safe. Tiger will have to compete with Rory Mcilroy, Phil, and possibly Luke Donald. Regardless, the Tiger era is back and on April 8th, Tiger will be the one slipping on his fifth green jacket and the PGA Tour will be relevant again in the sporting world.
Perhaps one of the most well known terms in golf throughout the early 2000’s is the “Tiger Effect.” There are various interpretations of what this term actually means. However, after years of following Tiger throughout his career, my definition of the Tiger Effect is: the notion that Tiger cannot be beaten no matter how hard you try, which ultimately becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In turn, whenever Tiger Woods either had the lead or was in the hunt, other players in the field would begin to collapse and Tiger would come out on top.
In a game where the winner is usually decided by only one or two strokes, Tiger in some ways made the game of golf boring. He would not only win tournaments, but rather he would crush the rest of the competition winning by ridiculous margins and making it almost embarrassing for other tour players to even call themselves professional golfers.
Take for example the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach: Tiger became the first player in US Open history to win the tournament in double digits (-12) and the second place finisher (Ernie Els) was 15 strokes behind him. Though, as shown by Tiger’s recent struggles, to even get on the leader board in tournaments let alone be a threat in majors is a stretch. Needless to say, the Tiger Effect is now a thing of the past.
I have been a lifelong Tiger Woods fan and regard him as possibly the greatest athlete of all time. However, my personal belief is that he will never be as dominate of a player as he once was and will not surpass Jack Nicklaus’s record of winning 18 majors. This seems easy to say given the recent success of young players such as Rory Mcllroy, Luke Donald, and Nick Watney. Not to mention Tiger has not won a PGA tournament over the last three seasons and has not won a major since the 2008 US Open. Though, even when Tiger first began falling into his “slump” two years ago, people asked my opinion about when the old Tiger would be back. I still responded with the same bare opinion in saying that I believed Tiger will never return to being as dominant for the rest of his career and he’s not going to break Jack’s record.
The reason I have such a restrained outlook on the rest of Tiger’s career is because he has lost his unbeatable aura. In 2007, another great professional golfer named Rory Sabbatini was once publically crucified by the media and Tiger himself for making the comment that Tiger is looking more “beatable” than ever. It was certainly disrespectful to publically criticize Tiger in the media, however, I think that the comment would not have been as highly disregarded and criticized had it been said over the last year.
The unfortunate truth is that had his comment been said in the correct time period, Rory was right- Tiger does look more beatable than ever. He made a run at the Honda Classic last week by shooting a 62 in the final round to take the clubhouse lead. It was almost expected that Rory Mcllroy would start throwing away shots and relent the lead to the all mighty Tiger Woods. But he didn’t. Rory went on to win the tournament by two shots. The week before in the Accenture Match Play, Tiger lost in the 2nd round to Nick Watney after trailing for the entire back nine and missing a critical 8 footer on 18 to extend the match. The old Tiger always found a way to win, which is what made him look so unbeatable.
Tiger is no longer the most feared player at every tournament not only because he isn’t playing well, but because he has lost his intimidation edge over the other players. People are not scared of Tiger anymore. Some say Tiger has lost his intimidation factor because he’s fallen so far from being #1 in the World Golf Rankings, or because he has not won a major in nearly four years, or even because of his sex scandal. To me, it’s a combination of all these things. The truth of the matter is that I still think of Tiger as my hero. He is undoubtedly one of the most exciting players in golf and a lot can be learned about how he approaches the game. As a golf community, we hold him to a higher standard than any other professional golfer because we know what he is capable of. I just hope that he can prove me and the other bare thinkers wrong in reclaiming his dominant stature on tour and break Jack’s long standing record of 18 majors.