Teed Off (13-05-2012)
with Robert Bicknell
Well, it seems like Tiger Woods simply cannot get out of his own way as he shot an opening round 74 at the Player's Championship. According to Woods, his swing is still a work in progress and just needs more time.
During a press conference, Woods was actually more open than he's been in the past and defended his new swing coach Sean Foley by reminding everyone that it took time for him to win again when he was with Butch Harmon and again later with Hank Haney.
The difference, in my opinion, is that Tiger was relatively young at that time and didn't carrye the emotional baggage that he's hauling around now. Also, he was somewhat healthy under Harmon, but walking wounded under Haney.
Woods might be physically healthy following his surgeries on his left knee, but it's an open question if he is emotionally and spiritually healthy given the events over the last two years.
Tour players are some of the most overly confident people on the planet. Most top athletes have the same mind set, but it's easily shattered once the wins stop coming.
Baseball players go into a slump where they cannot hit a ball if lobbed to them by a 10 year old Little League player. Basketball players find they cannot hit the backboard much less the hoop and golfers find they simply cannot get into contention anymore.
Technique is really not the problem at that level. It all comes back down to confidence and, once gone, it takes time to return. All you really need to do is get back in the game mentally and positive things happen. A win erases all doubts.
The problem with Tiger Woods, in my opinion, is mental and emotional. If he went out with some close friends and just played golf without over- thinking, he'd strike the ball better. But the problem is he cannot turn off his brain right now. He's consumed with swing thoughts and has himself twisted up like an accordion in a tornado.
Yet at the press conference, Tiger denied anything was wrong mentally and said he is as confident as he always was. So, in my opinion, it will take Tiger longer to make a comeback because the first step towards recovery is acceptance of the fact you have a problem.
He's not alone. Half the world is in denial about one thing or another. It's human nature.
But if you look at his game lately, putting seems to be at the top of the list when it comes to his problems and, as any pro will tell you, putting is almost ALL confidence. You can have the funkiest stroke in the world, but if you're confident that it works for you based on past results, then it will continue to work for you.
Right now, Tiger cannot make a putt if the hole was the size of a dumpster. Why? A lack of confidence.
Golf is an insidious game. A 10-cm putt has the same value as a 300-yard drive, yet you can miss your drive and recover, but miss a 10-cm putt and you'll be talking to yourself for an hour.
When your putting goes sour, it puts a strain on the rest of your game as well. You start trying to hit longer drives in order to hit a shorter and more accurate club to the green in hopes of getting the ball close enough for a tap in. Slowly, the stress begins to take a toll on you and, eventually, you cannot hit any club worth a damn.
However, great putters don't care much how perfectly they strike an approach shot or a drive. As long as it's playable they know if they can hit the green in regulation, they can birdie or, at worst, save par.
I've known players who couldn't hit the centre of the fairway with a road map and a Seeing-Eye dog, but once they get on, or near, the green, it's game over. They are so confident in their short game that they usually walk away with the money.
Legendary teacher Harvey Peneck once said that a great putter can play with anyone, but a poor putter is a match for no-one. The trees are full of long-hitters.
Bottom line is that Tiger needs to step back and find himself again. — VNS