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Opinion & Analysis

Williams: The maturation of Tiger Woods

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By Michael WIlliams

GolfWRX Staff Writer

An interesting phenomenon is sports, is that the greats often have styles of play that match their personalities. In team sports it is more truism than truth; the example that comes to mind is Larry Bird. Off the court, the man had all the personality of a bowl of oatmeal. But on the court he was a brazen, daring star who carried his team to victory on the shoulders of his outsized alter ego, Larry Legend.

But on tournament golf’s individual stage, where there are no teammates to stand behind or in front of, the axiom is proven time and time again.  The player must not only craft a method for playing this devil of a game, he or she must also develop a personality to allow the method to function. If the swing is the lifeblood of a player’s success, it is the personality that provides the rock ribs necessary to attain success and the thick skin crucial surviving the stinging disappointments that are a part of the journey.

The way the player walks, talks, stands and even blinks are evidence of he player’s personality, and with no helmet or shoulder pads to provide confidence or camouflage the player’s character is on full display. Walter Hagen brought a sense of style and adventure to a gentleman’s game approaching his wardrobe and his approaches with equal flair. Ben Hogan practiced in a solitary world that he constructed for himself, locking others out while he searched for The Secret with OCD-like fervor. In the end, he found what he was looking for inside the perfectly controlled confines of his psyche. He drew millions close to him with the results his perfectionism; ironically, that same iron will created a wall that kept those adoring masses at a distance whether he truly wanted it or not. In sharp contrast is the unbridled charisma of Arnold Palmer. Win lose or draw, it was Arnie’s world and he knew it. The world bent to Palmer’s personal gravity in the same way that courses relented to his powerful draw. And is there any doubt that Seve Ballesteros was the original “Most Interesting Man in the World”? He smiled in the face of his self-made catastrophes and extricated himself from them with the same bootlegger’s grin.

Today’s tour provides more exhibits of the game/personality connection. Bubba Watson is a self-made man, simple and complex all at once. The same is true of his game; his holler-wallop swings producing parabolas seldom seen outside a NASA proving ground. Watson draws a unique path through the course, just as he does through life. Rory McIlroy is the baby-faced assassin, playing the game few in that prodigious style of someone who has never known anything except being exceptional. But his maturity at his tender age is what served him best, allowing him to shake off the disaster at Augusta and produce a gem at Congressional in the one tournament that requires equal part patience and performance.

Amid these constructions, Tiger Woods stands as a monument. For more than a decade he seemed to be a magical experiment that combined both the game and personality characteristics of golf’s greatest players into one anointed player. Nicklaus’ distance and ambition, Palmer’s strength and flair, Hogan’s determination and work ethic were all in display as Tiger’s star hurtled across the sky. He was even paid a king’s ransom to accept credit for characteristics that we weren’t even sure he possessed, all so that a corporate sponsor could apply those characteristics to their products by the transitive property (Tiger has integrity, we pay Tiger, therefore we have integrity).

The personal crash that Woods experienced led to exposition and seismic changes. The King was deposed, tried, convicted and publicly flayed. And then, there was change. We saw Tiger apologize. We saw him beaten. And a couple of inglorious times, it seemed as if we saw him surrender.

Entering the second act of his life and career, Tiger is piecing together a new way to play and a new way to live. At the Media Day for the AT&T National tournament that he will host at Congressional in late June, the talk was of Tiger’s calm and considered demeanor. The hubris was virtually gone. In its place was a quiet confidence and a genuine belief that the event was more about supporting the kids in his foundation than as a stepping stone to his return to the top. Tiger patiently sat for the media, spent time with kids form his foundation and had a 10-year old Down’s Syndrome boy he had befriended at a tournament last year sit next to him during the press conference. He even deigned to participate in a promotional chipping contest with local amateurs. We do not see or hear much about Tiger’s private life, but what we do know is that he has dived into role as a father with relish. He is still focused on Jack in the distance, but is not willing to leave his loved ones behind to reach him.

They say that getting chicken pox in adulthood is much worse that getting it as a child. In the same way, it is much harder to grow up when you’re an adult than it is to do it as a child. Tiger Woods maturation began at 34, in full view of half the planet. As the Memorial begins this week, Woods is also searching for a game to match a personality that is in flux. He needs to decide if he will be a cannon or a sniper rifle, a jazz riff or a metronome. But as he searches for the combination that works, he will be aided by one wonderful thing that is happening off the course; he is becoming more of a man. And the golf world is hoping that eventually it will lead to him becoming more of a golfer.

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

Michael Williams is the contributing editor of Newschannel8 Capital Golf Weekly and Bunkershot.com, as well as a member of the Golf Writers Association of America.

You can follow Michael on twitter — @Michaelontv

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

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Courses

Barnbougle Lost Farm: 20 Holes of Pure Joy

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Another early day in Tasmania, and we were exploring the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-design, Barnbougle Lost Farm. The course was completed in 2010, four years after the neighbor Barnbougle Dunes, resulting in much excitement in the world of golf upon opening.

Johan and I teed off at 10 a.m. to enjoy the course at our own pace in its full glory under clear blue skies. Barnbougle Lost Farm starts out quite easy, but it quickly turns into a true test of links golf. You will certainly need to bring some tactical and smart planning in order to get close to many of the pin positions.

The third hole is a prime example. With its sloping two-tiered green, it provides a fun challenge and makes you earn birdie — even if your tee and approach shots put you in a good position. This is one of the things I love about this course; it adds a welcome dimension to the game and something you probably don’t experience on most golf courses.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The 4th is an iconic signature hole called “Sals Point,” named after course owner Richard Sattler’s wife (she was hoping to build a summer home on the property before it was turned into a golf course). A strikingly beautiful par-3, this hole is short in distance but guarded with luring bunkers. When the prevailing northwesterly wind comes howling in from the ocean, the hole will leave you exposed and pulling out one of your long irons for the tee shot. We left No. 4 with two bogeys with a strong desire for revenge.

Later in the round, we notice our scorecard had a hole numbered “13A” just after the 13th. We then noticed there was also an “18A.” That’s because Barnbougle Lost Farm offers golfers 20 holes. The designers believed that 13A was “too good to leave out” of the main routing, and 18A acts as a final betting hole to help decide a winner if you’re left all square. And yes, we played both 13A and 18A.

I need to say I liked Lost Farm for many reasons; it feels fresh and has some quirky holes including the 5th and the breathtaking 4th. The fact that it balks tradition with 20 holes is something I love. It also feels like an (almost) flawless course, and you will find new things to enjoy every time you play it.

The big question after trying both courses at Barnbougle is which course I liked best. I would go for Barnbougle Dunes in front of Barnbougle Lost Farm, mostly because I felt it was more fun and offered a bigger variation on how to play the holes. Both courses are great, however, offering really fun golf. And as I wrote in the first part of this Barnbougle-story, this is a top destination to visit and something you definitely need to experience with your golf friends if you can. It’s a golfing heaven.

Next course up: Kingston Heath in Melbourne.

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News

PGA Tour Pro and Parkland Alum Nick Thompson is Part of the Solution

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The tragic shooting of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida moved the entire nation in a deep and profound way. The tragic events touched many lives, including PGA Tour Professional Nick Thompson, who attended Stoneman Douglas for four years and was born and raised just minutes from there.

On our 19th Hole podcast, Thompson described in detail just how connected he is to the area and to Douglas High School.

“That’s my alma mater. I graduated in ’01. My wife Christen and I graduated in ’01. I was born and raised in Parkland…actually Coral Springs, which is a neighboring city. Stoneman Douglas actually is just barely in Parkland but it’s pretty much right on the border. I would probably guess there are more kids from Coral Springs that go to Stoneman Douglas than in Parkland. So I spent 29 years in Coral Springs before moving to Palm Beach Gardens where I live now, but I was born and raised there. I spent four years of high school there and it’s near and dear to my heart.”

Thompson’s siblings, LPGA Tour star Lexi Thompson and Web.com pro Curtis, did not attend Douglas High School.

His reaction to the news was immediate and visceral.

“I was in shock,” said Thompson. “I just really couldn’t believe it because Coral Springs and Parkland are both wonderful communities that are middle to upper class and literally, like boring suburbia. There’s not much going on in either city and it’s kind of hard to believe that it could happen there. It makes you think almost if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere. I think that’s one of the reasons why it has really gotten to a lot of people.”

Thompson knew personally some of the names that have become familiar to the nation as a result of the shooting, including Coach Aaron Feis, who died trying to save the lives of students.

“I went to high school with Aaron Feis,” said Thompson. “He was two years older than me, and I knew of him…we had a fair amount of mutual friends.”

And while the events have provoked much conversation on many sides, Thompson was moved to action.

“We started by my wife and I, the night that it happened, after we put our kids to bed, we decided that we needed to do something,” Thompson said. “The first thing we decided was we were going to do ribbons for the players, caddies, and wives. We did a double ribbon of maroon and silver, the school colors, pin them together and wrote MSD on the maroon section. We had the media official put them out on the first tee, so all the players were wearing them. It’s been great.”

“I got together with the media guys and Ken Kennerly, the tournament director of The Honda Classic and they have been amazing. The amount of players that had the ribbons on, I was just watching the coverage to see, is incredible. I actually spoke to Tiger today and thanked him for wearing the ribbon. We really appreciate it, told him I went to high school there. I mean the only thing he could say was that he was sorry, it’s an unfortunate scenario and he was happy to wear the ribbon, do whatever he could.”

Thompson is quick to note the help that he has received in his efforts.

“It’s not just me. My wife has been just as instrumental in getting this done as me. I just, fortunately, have the connection with the PGA Tour to move it in the right direction even faster. I have the luxury of having a larger platform that can get my words out and everything we’re trying to do faster than most people. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart so it was just literally perfect with The Honda Classic coming in town.”

Thompson has also been involved in fundraising that goes to help the survivors and victims’ families. GoFundMe accounts supported by Thompson and the PGA Tour have raised in excess of 2.1 million dollars in just a week.

“One of the most important uses for this money is counseling for victims, for these kids who witnessed this horrific event, or have one degree of separation,” Thompson said. “Counseling for kids who lost a friend or a classmate, who need counseling and to help them with their PTSD essentially. I think that’s one of the most important things is helping all these kids deal with what has happened.”

Thompson acknowledged the fact that the entire Parkland family is activated to help in the healing. As for his efforts, it’s the product of his recognition of just how fortunate his life has been and a heart for service.

“Golf has given so much to me that it was the perfect time to give back even more than I already have. It’s the best we can do. We’re just trying to make a difference. ”

Listen to the entire interview on a special edition of The 19th Hole with Michael Williams on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Podcasts

TG2: What irons did Knudson finally get fit into?

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GolfWRX equipment expert Brian Knudson gets his first ever iron fitting. He dishes about his favorite irons, some irons that didn’t work for him, and he discusses the wide array of shafts that he tried. And then, he reveals what irons and shafts he got fit into. His irons of choice may surprise you.

Check out the podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

jewkh

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19th Hole

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