April 5, 2011

tiger It’s Masters week, and I’m really looking forward to watching my second-most favorite tournament (just behind the British Open) of the year. If you watch Golf Channel you know just how much the folks there are absolutely on pins and needles waiting for the re-emergence of Tiger Woods as a dominating force on the PGA Tour. (You could almost hear their collective sigh of relief when Phil Mickelson won this past week’s Shell Houston Open – finally, one of the two golfers they endlessly pimp day in and day out to the exculsion of virtually every other player gave them an excuse to continue their collective excess.)

So let’s continue the excess. How will Tiger do at the Masters?

After watching Tiger for many years, I think there’s been way too much focus on what he does off the tee. Even though the Dustin Johnsons, Bubba Watsons, J.B. Holmes’ and others have long since passed him in driving distance, Tiger is still plenty long enough and hitting enough fairways and greens to win tournaments. The problem I see it comes down to two little, but very important, words: S-H-O-R-T. G-A-M-E. Think about it – just about every bunker shot and chip Tiger hit used to stop within 2 feet of the cup, whereas now he’s leaving them yards short. Tiger also used to make an incredible number of putts outside fifteen feet, now he seems to be missing everything (most often to the right) outside of 5 feet.

Now we’ve heard Tiger defend his play of late saying he’s been spending the majority of his practice time on his full swing, since, because he’s taking the same swing change all the way from driver to putter (a stupid idea in my humble opinion), once his swing is nailed everything will come together at once. The problem with that argument should be obvious to anyone: let’s say it takes him another full year to bring his swing 100% together. By that time he’ll be another year older, and anyone will tell you that once you hit your mid-30s the first thing that starts to go is your putting accuracy. I’m not so sure Tiger isn’t seeing a little bit of that aging process creeping into his putting stroke already.

In my view, Tiger should have stayed with what was working, come roaring back after all the personal troubles and bimbos, and try to rack up tournament wins and majors while the getting was good. This swing change might be in his own mind what he needs to do to continue to be successful, but you can’t escape Father Time, and precious time is something Tiger has let slip away while a new and fearless generation of talented golfer have arrived on the scene. The Rickie Fowlers, Hunter Mahans, Anthony Kims, and Watsons and Johnsons of the world are not in the least bit in awe of Tiger, and once they learn to close tournaments out regularly themselves, Tiger will have that much higher a barrier to those majors wins he needs to pass Jack Nicklaus.

I think Tiger will finish in the top ten this week at Augusta – he knows the course too well to do otherwise – but I’m predicting a breakout win by one of the new “young guns”, a win that will turn the golf world upside down. As much as I like Phil and will be pulling for him, I’d love to see the sight of Anthony Kim or Bubba Watson accept that green jacket.

Even if that were to happen, don’t expect to see Golf Channel stop pimping the legend of Tiger Woods anytime soon.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 00:23 | Comments (0)
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