Thursday, February 20 2020


Teed Off (Mar 15, 2015)

Update: March, 16/2015 - 19:16

with Robert Bicknell

Many pundits continue to ponder a single question: What caused Tiger Woods downfall?

OK, the obvious answer, which is not necessarily the correct one, would be his sex scandal which caused him to lose his wife and kids, his face and over US$100 million in the divorce settlement.

The scandal took a psychological toll on him, there is no question about that. A deeply private man - who obviously had many things to hide, he was an information control freak who would freeze out members of his inner circle if anyone dared to speak even the most insignificant thing to the press about him. Caddies who got too close were dropped like a hot potato. Press briefings were rigidly controlled.

Nobody was allowed to know the man beneath the carefully created illusion until it all came crashing down. Humiliated, forced to admit he was "addicted to sex" (which still remains one of the stupidest things I have ever heard in my life. Everyone is "addicted to sex" because if we weren't, the human race would have died out a thousands of years ago.

But this isn't why Tiger fell.

In my never humble opinion, Tiger was hoist by his own petard.

In his seemingly never satisfied search for perfection, he could no longer see the forest through the trees. The golf swing is both simple and complex. It doesn't have to be, but due to human nature, it is.

The swing is simple to a child, but as an adult it becomes harder. Not because the body is less flexible, but because the mind has become too complex. It begins to see things differently. It analyzes everything, looking for logic and rationality even when there isn't any.

In short, in his pursuit of perfection, Tiger began to worry too much about the mechanical aspects of the swing and the deeper he went down the rabbit hole, the more confusing things became.

Butch Harmon refined Tiger's very usable college swing and kept it as simple as possible. When you have a race horse, you have to let him run. With Tiger, you had to let him swing his ass off. Butch was smart enough to make small changes to bring more stability, but left the core mechanism of the swing untouched.

Unlike Harmon, his next teacher, Hank Haney, had a real love of "bio-mechanics" which is simply a study of how the body works. It is quite complicated. The easiest way for me to explain it would be to give exact definitions of how to walk and chew gum at the same time. Easy to do unless you actually have to focus on every single muscle group - at which time you fall and break your face. There is no reason to think about these actions because your brain can do it for you automatically, but instructors (and players) in love with theory cannot wait to try and astound you with their brilliance and bombard you with totally useless information.

Sean Foley continued that tradition, focusing on the bio-mechanical and worse, the "technical".

Enter "Trackman".

Trackman is essentially a radar unit which can give some highly precise information on at least 20 different vectors. This is great for a scientist who needs data for designing new equipment; writing a paper on impact dynamics or ball flight characteristics; or for fitting someone for new clubs, but it is a disaster for a golfer who is already suffering from data overload.

There is too much information and by trying to hit all the optimum numbers, you become lost in the process. This is called "Paralysis by analysis" and this is what is killing Tiger Woods. He became so infatuated with mechanical detail that he cannot swing naturally anymore.

For Tiger Woods to improve, he needs to stop thinking and just play without conscious thought. Focus only on impacting the ball without caring how he does it. His natural ability will eventually come through again. Hitting 300 balls at the range in rapid fire without having time to think would be a good start.

I think if he does this and learns to love "playing" the game again, he will make a comeback, but there is no guarantee if he can ever instill fear in his opponents again…

But it's worth a try. — VNS

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