Despite a career-worst US Open round that saw him involuntarily throw a club into the air, hit three-straight bunker shots, and straight-up top an approach shot directly into the ground, Tiger Woods was optimistic in his post-round news conference.
After shooting an 80, Tiger more or less laid out this argument:
1. He’s in the middle of a swing change. That means he’s going to be bad now, but once he masters it he’ll be ok. Here’s what he said when asked if he thought he was on the right track with this new swing, “Yeah, I am, I am. I know when I do it right, it’s so easy. It just feels easy to control, easy to do it, easy to hit all my shots. I just need to do it more often and build from there.”
2. He has successfully changed his swing three times before. He developed new swings under coaches Butch Harmon, Hank Haney, Sean Foley, and now Chris Como. But this one is particularly tricky because the difference between his previous swing and his new one is greater than usual: “Going from [Haney] to [Foley in 2010] was similar because you’re on your left leg. The bigger change was probably going from [Harmon] to [Haney in 2004], because I was on my right leg and I had to switch to my left leg, so that was a little bit different. But now we’re trying to go back the other way, so it’s — they’re all not easy to do. I’ve gone through tough phases in each one of these things and I’ve come out ok on the other side.”
3. He just needs reps. On top of all these swing change issues, Tiger has barely played golf because of the back surgery he had 16 months ago. He says at this point he just needs reps: “I haven’t played enough. I haven’t had a rhythm to play. I didn’t play much last year and I haven’t played much this year. Knee surgeries are pretty easy compared to a back surgery, the recovery time. And for some reason, it’s just a lot harder dealing with a nerve than a joint.”
Unless he has some sort of mental block (note: possible!) or he gets hurt again (note: even more possible!), there’s no reason why Tiger can’t, in time, master this new swing the way he mastered the others over the course of his career. This isn’t a case of Tiger suddenly losing his golf game and not knowing how to get it back, it’s a case of Tiger consciously breaking his golf game and thinking he can put it back together. You could say that’s a dumb plan for a guy with his age and injury history, but at least there is a plan here.
While it feels like Tiger hasn’t been good forever because he hasn’t won a major in so long, it was just two years ago that he won five tournaments and was the No. 1-ranked player in the world. It’s hard to see him ever becoming the dominant Tiger again, but becoming 2013 Tiger again is plausible.
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