This non-49ers article is the first and probably the last that will appear on this blog, but it must be said.
NOTE: I wrote this after the second round at Bayhill when Tiger shot an excellent 68 and before his eventual weekend collapse.
Twenty years ago I was playing in a Senior professional team tournament with my partner, Clyde Daniels, a good friend and former great athlete from Texas. Clyde was now a local club pro raising his kids in Sacramento, and playing for dinero on the side. During this round he was raving about a 15-year old kid with the greatest natural talent he had ever seen. He described how this young phenom could already outhit him by 30 yards, and Clyde was known as a very long hitter. That was my introduction to Tiger Woods.
Over the years, I, like many American males, adopted Tiger as my own and rooted for him with zeal as he amazed us over and over again with his feats on the golf course. Whether it was hitting shots nobody had ever dreamed of hitting, or sinking putts from amazing distances and with incredible breaks, Tiger would consistently amaze us.
Since sabotaging his own life and career, Tiger began the long climb back to what he hopes is his return to domination on the tour. I understand his wanting to change his lifestyle and personal habits and to become a great parent. But, in my opinion, he has taken his mantra for change too far. It's one thing to change your personal habits, quite another to take one of the best swings ever and completely re-do it. As I watch him continue to struggle with the robotic swing changes instituted by "guru" Sean Foley, I can only cringe.
If his dad was alive today, he would be very frustrated. The line "beware of false prophets" comes to mind. David Ledbetter, Butch Harmon, Hank Haney, Sean Foley, the names are well-known. So-called swing gurus and nowadays all the pros have them. I find it ridiculous. The great players of yesterday never used a swing coach, other than those who relied upon the wisdom of their dads. I can never imagine Jack Nicklaus or Sam Snead going to someone else for daily advice. It never happened.
Tiger now calls himself "Ranger Rick", because he hits the ball so well on the range, but can't bring it to the course. Of course you can't, Tiger, and you won't. As your dad would have told you, when you are playing under pressure, you ALWAYS return to your natural instincts and swing -- always.
I can understand swing changes as we age and our bodies change. In my case, I underwent multiple spinal surgeries in my early 30's. All my childhood dreams of playing on the PGA Tour were put to rest. Doctors said I would never play again. So, never one to be told I can't do something, I shortened my backswing and had a 51-inch driver made to accommodate the changes. It worked and my dream came true at age 50 when I got a win in a Senior mini-tour event, and a 292 yard hole in one on the fly on a par 4 in the same year.
Swing changes are sometimes necessary, but Tiger has taken it too far. The greatest putter in history with the greatest short game has changed his chipping and putting styles to "alter the release point", whatever the hell that means. His dad must be screaming at him from above, "Return to your natural swing and stroke". Tiger's perfectly smooth stroke is now a quick jab. He regularly misses putts from six feet and under when he used to do things like make 49 out of 50.
Here is something to remember, Tiger. Under extreme pressure, we will always do what comes naturally. Your guru can tell you over and over to swing a certain way or to stroke the ball a certain way, but when the tv cameras are on and the whole world is watching, your natural instincts take over. It's why they call them "natural". So, Tiger, after your Masters experience in a couple of weeks and I wish you the very best, my recommendation is to dump your latest guru and return home.
Immediately dump this new putting stroke. You're the greatest clutch putter of all time -- why fix it if it ain't broken? Watch videos of your swing and stroke ten (10) years ago and get back to that fluid swing. Dump Foley. You are starting to look very robotic and mechanical, and that, coupled with few smiles, slammed clubs, loud profanity, and an old sourpuss, makes me long for the energetic, smiling Tiger. It's not much fun watching you anymore, pal, especially as you seem to fall apart on the weekends when the pressure is at its highest, and that is very sad. Let's send "Ranger Rick" packing and get Tiger back. SOON! Good luck.
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