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Opinion & Analysis

Achilles Last Stand? Woods’ Pursuit of Jack Again in Doubt

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By Pete Pappas 

GolfWRX Staff Writer 

Early this season Tiger Woods said his left leg felt as strong as it’s been in years, and that he’s starting the 2012 campaign healthy for the first time in nearly eight years.

However Sunday at TPC Blue Monster he injured the same left Achilles he hurt at last year’s Masters, forcing him to pull out of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.  And now his mere presence at Augusta National next month is in jeopardy.

Remember Tiger grimacing on No. 17 at the Masters in 2011 after his second shot?  That same agonizing grimace appeared Sunday at No. 10 on Woods’ approach shot which veered ominously left into the lake.

When the final round began at Doral, Tiger was nine-under, playing encouraging if not spectacular golf.  And the man who used to be the greatest golfer most of us have ever seen appeared well on his way towards turning another corner in his ongoing battle of patience, process, and progress.

Woods came into the WGC-Cadillac Championship reinvigorated by his final round 62, T-2 finish at The Honda Classic.  The golf world was again abuzz about Tiger’s pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 majors, and optimistic of Tiger’s chances at The Masters in April.

But something was amiss to start the final round at TPC Blue Monster.

“I felt tightness in my left Achilles warming up this morning, and it continued to get progressively worse,” Woods said in a statement. “After hitting my tee shot at No. 12, I decided it was necessary to withdraw.  In the past, I may have tried to continue to play, but this time, I decided to do what I thought was necessary.”

Woods missed two majors in 2011 after suffering a mild medial collateral ligament sprain to his left knee and a mild strain to his left Achilles tendon.  The extent of damage from this most recent injury won’t be known until later in the week.

“I will get my Achilles evaluated sometime early next week,” Woods said.

But no matter what the medical tests reveal, Tiger finds himself again embroiled in the middle of controversy, right where he’s been for the better part of 18 months.

When Woods withdrew at No. 12 citing a “left leg injury” another new can of worms popped open in this always evolving Tiger-drama.  And fairly or not, Woods’ backbone, durability, and swing mechanics are coming under more forceful attack than ever before.

Fighting for nothing

If Tiger’s injury is a minor one, it’s possible he won’t have to miss the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, his next scheduled event on the PGA Tour.  However if it’s a minor injury, people will also undoubtedly question his guts; in fact, many already have.

Back when Woods withdrew from the 2011 Players Championship after shooting six-over through the first nine holes (Tiger was three-over when he withdrew Sunday at Doral), more than a few in the media crucified him, and some tour players were less than supportive or understanding.

It’s said that one time’s a point, two time’s a trend, three time’s a pattern.  So Woods has a trend of not finishing? A Tiger-trend of quitting?

Calling him a quitter and particularly comparing him to John Daly’s pinhead antics (as numerous are doing) seems extreme to me.  Woods is surely closer to Jack’s majors record than he is to letting himself go, smoking unfiltered Camels, rehydrating with Pabst Blue Ribbon, and swearing by a “Krispy Kreme Extreme Abs Workout”.

On the other hand about a half-dozen lost endorsements ago, I believed Tiger was the clean-cut, All-American Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes type; so I know things aren’t always how they seem with Mr. Woods.  Another trend?

Throw in a few gratuitous snide remarks pointing out Tiger allegedly wanted to quit the PGA Tour and become a Navy SEAL (according to Hank Haney in his Tiger tell-all book, “The Big Miss”), and I’m left to ask, are these criticisms of Woods’ backbone fair game?

One school of thought says you never quit; ever.

Quitting is disrespectful to the field, to the game, and (should be) to your own sense of professionalism.  And Woods did play through worse, winning the 2008 U.S Open on a broken leg.

Others however point out withdrawing at the Blue Monster should be considered a sign of Tiger’s maturity; and perhaps more important for Woods’ future success, his acceptance of physical limits he didn’t believe existed before, or simply chose to ignore.

Tiger’s going to fight for nothing?  Not even a top-10 finish at Doral, where he already owns more WGC titles than the five players ranked immediately below him (in WGC victories) have won combined?  And in the process, risk exacerbating his injury to the point where he has to take a year off again; or worse, beyond a point of repair?  Absurd!

Whatever you believe, one thing is certain, it’s definitely not easy being Tiger Woods these days.  And though his golf game isn’t quite the wreck it used to be, the jury is still out on his Achilles.

You can’t win majors if you can’t play majors

An Achilles injury (minor or major) isn’t exactly MLB’s Ken Griffey Jr. pinching a testicle with his protective cup.  Or professional disc golfer (yes they actually get paid) Ron Russel swinging his hand into a tree during a 2000 PDGA event.

Woods had torn ligaments in his left knee when he won at Torrey Pines, and had a stress fracture en route to giving Rocco Mediate his 15 minutes of fame in that remarkable 91-hole 2008 U.S. Open (you know I love you RAM!).  And Tiger’s knee troubles and Achilles injuries reappeared at the 2011 Masters, and then again that same year at the Players Championship.

You didn’t need to go to medical school to figure this one out; it’s not just possible Tiger’s body is deteriorating; it’s damn near certain it is.

Just look at Woods’ disturbing freefall since last years Masters.  U.S Open?  Missed because of injury.  British Open?  Missed because of injury.  PGA Championship?  Tiger missed the cut.

You can’t win majors if you can’t play majors.  And if Woods is absent from Augusta this year, don’t just throw up another road block in Tiger’s pursuit of Jack; bulldoze a few gigantic boulders in that path.

Missing another major because of injury will cause greater and louder questions about the durability of Tiger’s 36 year-old body than would exist if Woods was there, competing, and lost.  The Achilles injury Tiger suffered Sunday as WGC-Cadillac is the same Achilles that he injured last year at Augusta National.  This is not the kind of déjà vu Woods was looking for with the 2012 Masters on the horizon.

And on top of all that, who really knows what’s going on with Tiger’s body.

Remember when Oakland Raiders halfback Bo Jackson was injured on what seemed to be a routine tackle in a 1990 playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals?  That injury spiraled out of control, deteriorating cartilage and bone around his hip joint.  No one could have thought those consequences would result in their wildest dreams.

Tiger has gone hard on that left side for 16 years since turning pro back in 1996.  And spectators have sworn they’ve felt the ground rumble beneath them when Tiger tees off.  The Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon in the body, and depending upon speed, stride, terrain and additional weight being carried or pushed, may be subject to three-to-twelve a person’s body weight during a push off.  It connects the calf muscle to the heel bone and can support more than 1,000 pounds of pressure.

We’ve seen Tiger many times look like he’s come close to maxing that out.

The Rock will layeth the smackdown on your candy-(you know the rest)

Somewhere Sunday afternoon, Mediate might have been heard yelling, “I knew it!”

No matter what kind of injury this current Achilles setback winds up being for Woods, severe or minor; it’s re-opened the debate on the positive and negative effects of Woods’ new swing style.  And the question in particular is, does the new Sean Foley swing cause more damage; or does it prevent further damage (as Foley claims is the case).

I’m not going to presume to understand the anatomy of a biomechanically sound golf swing.  And I haven’t studied and compared Tiger’s old swing and new swings to critique it from any injury preventive perspective.

Swing mechanics certainly generate substantial tension on the body, this much I do understand.  And the question then becomes, is Tiger’s new swing worsening that tension’s damage, or softening its effect?

Mediate has been adamant in making a simple, single, but profound point about Tiger’s new swing:  it’s just putting too much pressure and stress on Tiger’s body.  (And for what it’s worth, Mediate is not alone in this belief; add Lee Trevino to the non-believers of the Sean Foley way).

“The physical motion is wrong,” Mediate said. “To get that stress off his body is a piece of cake, but the guys working with him just don’t know. Sean knows some stuff, but what’s going on with Tiger is not correct,” he said.

The Foley camp argues Tiger wanted the swing change, is happy with the swing change, and believes the swing change is necessary to avoid further wear and tear on his injured knee and body overall.

But even if that’s the case, who’s to say Foley’s technique is the best one for Tiger?  The process has been protracted, the progress dwarfed, and Tiger’s patience tested time and time again.  That doesn’t exactly sound reassuring.

Father knows best

In all walks of life, we use the expression Achilles’ heel to refer to a person’s single vulnerable point.  And Tiger’s vulnerable point; ironically might wind up being his actual Achilles heel.

I see only one possible way this can turn out well for Tiger.  He comes back for the Masters, reveals afterwards he had an injury worse than he (eventually) announced after Doral, and wins in epic Tiger style. His fifth Masters Green Jacket,and 15th major, just three back from Jack; churn the wheels, grease the engines, Woods is back on pace to catch and surpass Nicklaus and he did it with that venerable Tiger flash!

I’d like to believe that will happen.  But I don’t.  Instead I’m reminded of something Tiger’s dad once said.

“I’m going to make a prediction,” Earl Woods said.  “Before he’s through, my son will win 14 major championships.”

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

You can follow Pete on twitter @TheGreekGrind.

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Pete is a journalist, commentator, and interviewer covering the PGA Tour, new equipment releases, and the latest golf fashions. Pete's also a radio and television personality who's appeared multiple times on ESPN radio, and Fox Sports All Bets Are Off. And when he's not running down a story, he's at the range working on his game. Above all else, Pete's the proud son of a courageous mom who battled pancreatic cancer much longer than anyone expected. You can follow Pete on twitter @PGAPappas

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Jason Powell

    Mar 14, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Very valid points allowing personal opinions to seminate. However, just as Tiger is no God, Earl was no prophet. Only time will tell. If TW can pass Jack’s record, great. If he cannot, I’ll still worry about life’s pieces that really matter. Jack/Tiger’s record(s) aren’t one of them. They’re simply recreation to most of us & won’t change whether or not we are able to pay the mortgage & feed our families.

  2. Gary Passmore

    Mar 13, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Great article and awesome hard rock reference. Kudos…

  3. rick rappaport

    Mar 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    A well written article raising good points and leaving us with something to actually think about afterwards. To me that’s the mark of something worth reading.

    All I can add is the seminal lyrics from the Byrds:

    To everything – turn, turn, turn
    There is a season – turn, turn, turn
    And a time for every purpose under heaven.

    It’s not an epitaph for TW but just a reminder that nothing lasts forever, regardless of whether it’s 15 minutes of fame or 15 years.

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Flatstick Focus

Flatstick Focus: Anser-Style Draft and Interview with Nate Stone from Chirrp

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In Episode 10, Glenn and Parker draft a team of 5 Anser-style putters to compete for listener votes on Instagram. We also interview Nate Stone from Chirrp Golf to discuss their new product coming to the market later in 2020.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

The best golf commercials of all time

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The world of golf has seen its fair share of commercials; both memorable and well…not so much.

Lucky for us, and cinematographers alike, production values, camera technology, and creative concepts have certainly improved over time with the biggest creative leap thanks to Nike golf. This is look back and both some and the best and, let’s say less creative.

Golf’s Not That Hard, Right?

The Moment Tiger introduces Joe the 27 Handicap, you know it’s not going to end well.

Titleist DT – It’s Wound In.

I don’t know if the best part of this commercial is the music, the fist pumps, or the classic sweater and stiff collar outfits worn by everyone involved.

Shankapotomus

This was a big Superbowl commercial and it was long after that shankapotomus became part of the golf vernacular.

Kenny G Sells Clubs?

I’ll never quite understand that demographic that was targeted at. People, that enjoy forgiving clubs and smooth saxophone? I guess Lisa Simpson wasn’t available.

Boo Weekley – Launching It

When it comes to characters in golf, Boo Weekly will always be remembered as one of the finest. Although considering VJ is well knows for living right next to TPC Sawgrass I feel like they took some liberties with shooting locations.

Get Custom Fit!

Although the company certainly isn’t around anymore the message is a good one – You’re going to play better with custom-fit clubs. Throw in a groin-hit for good measure because that’s always fun right?

Big Bertha Caddies

This one is pretty good, and if you have ever caddied for any period of time it’s quite relatable. But regardless of the clubs there players are gaming, I’d rather not be carrying a staff bag around for 36 holes unless there is “a little something for the effort.”

PING G10 Irons & Driver

These will always be my favorite golf commercials. They are endlessly funny and play directly into many golfers often farsighted aspirations around their own golf games. Best line “Exactly. One good year and that’s all taken care of.”

What did we miss, GolfWRXers? Let us know your favorite golf commercials in the comments!

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Opinion & Analysis

A 2015 conversation with Dean Snell

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In 2015, Dean Snell answered nine questions for our Ronald Montesano, for publication on his site, BuffaloGolfer.Com. As we all know, Snell Golf is still around and succeeding.

Have a bit of time travel with us, as we go back five years and read what Dean Snell had to say.

Dean Snell lists positions with Titleist and TaylorMade golf ball divisions over his 25 years of involvement with the development of golf balls. In 2015, Snell founded Snell Golf, selling golf balls directly to the consumer. He agreed to answer our interview questions, so have a read.

1. Give us an idea of how Dean Snell found golf and how it became the focal point of his professional life.

I actually did not like golf at all growing up.. I was a hockey player my whole life. My first golf experience was when i was playing hockey out in Hershey PA, my dad came out to see me play, and we had a day off, so he wanted to play golf. I rented clubs.. he was a very good player. The first hole I shot my ball so far right, never found it.. he made par.. Second hole I was again way right, in the woods.. when I heard a huge commotion in the fairway.. my dad was also a big boy, and took no crap from anyone… well these two guys were in his face, so I ran across fairway, clothes-lined one guy and we beat the crap out of these two guys on the second fairway. needless to say they threw us off the course.

I asked my dad what happened on the ride home… evidently he was waiting for me in the woods, and the guys behind us hit their ball and it rolled into him.. so he grabbed a 3 wood and fired it back at them… then they came down and it was GAME ON… so i thought maybe golf can be a fun thing after all.. haha..

I was actually working at BF Goodrich Aerospace and Defense in 1990 designing composite parts for F16 and blackwhawk helicopters when I answered an ad for a quality engineer at Titleist… which happened to be in my hometown of Acushnet MA… they sent my resume over to R&D because of the engineering degree and background I had… two weeks later they offered me a job and I started my career in golf.. i didn’t even have a set of clubs…So I got some clubs, started playing and have been hooked on golf since… which makes it easier cause my hockey days are not over…I started working on designing the engineering process to make cast urethane golf balls, and introduced the first cast urethane ball in Titleist Professional in 1994/95.

2. What were the most important lessons you learned while at Acushnet and TaylorMade?

I love both companies… Both extremely professional and very technical… While at Acushnet, I truly had to learn the game of golf.. engineering, performance, what was important, testing, EVERYTHING…. then i began to work with the tour players and developing a good understanding of what they would look for in a design. At TaylorMade it was a complete business start up… They had one ball patent, and didn’t even have a scale to weigh a ball.. so very interesting in building factories, processes, designs, development and complete business practices.. Again, worked very close with tour players and continued to understand what they need and how to make products they eventually would play and win at the highest level. Today, a lot of these players are still good friends and I keep in touch with.

3. Snell has two golf ball lines, the “My Tour Ball” and the “Get Sum.” What are the most important features of each ball?

MY TOUR BALL is a 3-pc CAST URETHANE covered ball..this cover technology has been around since 1994 and I believe nothing will ever replace it.. it is outstanding… allows very soft covers for soft feel, extremely durable urethane and we cast it very thin to allow outstanding short game spin and control…The core is very low compression and FAST in ball speed, which equates to lower driver spin rates and faster ball speeds, both of which make the ball very long off the tee… the mantle layer is designed to control the iron spin… it works with the core on longer irons to keep spin down and prevent ballooning, and then works with the soft urethane cover to create high short game spin and control…LONG, SOFT, ,DURABLE, and spin control… great combo.

GET SUM is made to have low compression, low spin core and thin soft ionomer cover to give very soft feel. This ball is lower in spin, launches a bit higher with all clubs.. great ball for higher handicaps, as the lower spin helps reduce hooks and slices and helps the ball fly straighter… also easier to get up in the air, which is sometimes a challenge…

4. How does a start-up golf ball company hope to compete with established companies, boasting decades of success at all levels of the game?

In all honesty I do not think we plan to compete with the big companies. This is an on line direct to consumer based business where we reduce a lot of expenses and pass the savings on to the consumers… The larger companies will still have the big stores, on course and off course retailers, and even they sell some on line… I am trying to bring the best technologies and processes and performance at a lower price to consumers to help them play more, and want to play more..The way we sell will not be measured in any market share numbers reported by the larger companies.

5. Snell golf has a members forum on its site, for supporters to ask questions, contribute comments and offer opinions. What is the value in dedicating a portion of the site to your customers?

I love education and think that golf is very tough and technical.. I have some good experience and stories over the last 25 years, and if I can find a place to share this info to consumers, I love to do that. anyone can log on and submit any technical questions they may have about golf balls and technology, and I will do my best to give my technical opinion and help them out…

6. Currently, Snell golf balls are available only through the company website. Why is this and will it continue into the future?

We are a small start up… the niche today is selling direct to consumers.. so no big marketing expenses, no big tour contracts, no sales reps, no mark ups… so the balls cost the same to make as other balls, but all the expenses we can save is passed on to the consumers…I have a lot of pro shops call and want to carry… will it ever been seen in pro shops, I am sure it will… but today we have a niche and are not set up to support this type of system. If any pro shop wanted to call and place an order for their club or members, we would certainly take the order and ship out the next day…I have a crawl, walk run philosophy in business… i think if you try to do too many things too fast, you fail. we have a had a lot of requests to have distributors overseas… great ideas, but just not ready to do this yet… LET IT DEVELOP is my favorite saying.

7. How will you measure success for Snell golf balls?

Our plans are realistic and we plan to start small and let it develop… learn and try to do things right. We have target goals to meet in a 3 year plan, and will work hard every day to meet these goals…

8. What aspects of golf ball development and production are most unknown/confusing to the consumer, and deserve clarification?

I think I have two…compression.. people think they have to play a low compression ball to “compress” the ball..not true at all every golfer compresses the ball.. compression is a designers tool that helps us understand spin rates and has a small factor in the overall feel of the ball.. so dont worry about compression.. most balls today have not ratings for a reason.. they are not important… Second is swing speed… in my opinion players should not choose a ball based on swing speed.. if a player picks a lower compression ball based on swing speed, that means he or she is playing a ball that has a lower spin rate… so think about it… you are picking a ball that “may” increase your ball speed by 0.5 mph with a driver.. lets say that did happen.. that means now your 230 yard drive just went 231 yards… so now you are a whopping one yard longer (maybe) and you have to play the rest of the hole with a ball that is made to have no spin or low spin… and where do you need spin the most? around the green…you should play a ball that fits your game around the green.. test several models from inside 70 yards.. chips,… putts, etc.. then dont worry about driver.. they all go about the same distance today… but you score around the green… choose the ball that fits your game where you play the most… not off the tee…

9. What questions haven’t we asked, that you wish we had? Ask them and answer them, please.

Is this a cheap tour ball?

No, I never use the word cheap.. people believe that if the tour ball is cheaper then it is not as good.. i only ask that you try it… I used the same technologies and materials that have been used in tour balls for over 20 years… proven on tour… the performance is there.. the cost is a savings for you to hope you play more…

Will there be any tour players in the ball?

At this point, we have had a few players contact us to play the ball.. unfortunately, as a small start up, we are not paying large tour contracts at this time, and are passing this savings on to you the consumers… I have designed or co designed golf balls for the best players in the world over the last 25 years at both Titliest and TaylorMade, and have a good understanding of golf ball performance, and what it takes to create this type for performance. Golf is my passion today, but hockey is still my favorite sport… even if I have never been successful to tie the two sports together like I had in my first golf experience with my dad.. haha..

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