Connect with us

Opinion & Analysis

Williams: The maturation of Tiger Woods

Published

on

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

Your Reaction?
  • 1
  • LEGIT1
  • WOW1
  • LOL1
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP1
  • OB1
  • SHANK1

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.

Podcasts

Jason Day’s performance coach, Jason Goldsmith, joins the 19th hole

Published

on

In this episode of the 19th Hole, Jason Goldsmith of FocusBand talks about how the breakthrough technology has helped PGA Tour stars Jason Day and Justin Rose to major wins. Also, host Michael Williams gives his take on Tiger Woods’ return to golf.

Click here to listen on iTunes!

Your Reaction?
  • 0
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

Courses

Ari’s Course Reviews: Oakmont Country Club

Published

on

Editor’s Note: Ari Techner is a well-traveled, golf-course connoisseur who’s setting out to review the best golf courses in the world. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are his own. 

Oakmont Country Club. The name alone strikes fear into the heart of any mortal golfer. Oakmont has a reputation for difficulty unmatched in the golf world; it’s fear forged in the public’s eye while watching best players in the world struggle during the U.S. Open every 10-plus years or so. There is a notion that Oakmont could hold a U.S. Open just about any day of the year. This is not a course that needs to be tweaked from its daily setup to test the best in the world.

All that said, a close look at the course reveals that there is so much more to Oakmont than just difficulty. Since around 1950, MANY courses have been built with the dilebrate intention of holding a U.S. Open. Most, if not all, of these courses are filled with water hazards, extremely long holes and very little variety. Oakmont is the exact opposite of that, and this is what is at the core of its greatness.

A view from the ninth fairway

Oakmont Country Club first opened in 1903 and was designed by Henry Fownes, who built it because he felt the other courses around Pittsburgh were not difficult enough. The course was constantly tweaked in the early years by Fownes and his son William. Both Fownes were accomplished players with William winning the U.S. Amateur in 1910 and serving as the playing captain of the first U.S. Walker Cup team in 1922.

Trees, or no trees?

The 18th tee

The course was extremely influential in the development of early golf courses in America. It was equally influential in future years by setting trends that have changed the way many other courses have evolved. When Oakmont opened, it was built in an open field and had no trees on the course, adding to the links-like flavor that Fownes wanted from his visits overseas. In the 1950s (after all the Fownes had left the club) Oakmont added thousands of non-native trees to line the corridors of the holes, a look that was a heavy trend of the time. This work was mostly done by Robert Trent Jones, who also modified the bunkers to fit more of his style of the time.

The course continued to evolve over the years with the bunkers being restored by Tom Fazio… but the trees remained. In preparation for the 2008 U.S. Open, Oakmont cut down thousands of trees, returning the course to its open, windswept origins. This was very controversial among the members, and much of the work was done in the middle of the night in the off-season so as not to cause a big stir. After 2008, thousands more trees have been cut down, opening all of the amazing long views across the property. You can see almost every hole on the property from just about every spot on the course. Oakmont was the first course to embrace this massive tree removal and it has turned into a trend with hundreds of classic courses removing their non-native trees and going back to their more open original layouts.

Oakmont is the only course that Fownes designed and I believe that contributes greatly to its uniqueness. Fownes’ version of difficulty did not include artificial water hazards, out of bounds or excessive bunkering fronting greens, and it did not rely simply on longer-than-average holes to challenge the golfer. Instead, it has an amazingly varied mix of holes that challenge the golfer in a variety of ways both mentally and physically. Overall, the course requires you to be a straight driver of the ball, a good iron player and to have a deft short game and putting touch. You also need to be able to think your way around the course while you execute the shots you choose at a high level.

A good variety

Oakmont has its share of length with long par 4s, such as hole Nos. 1, 10, 15 and 18, the monster par-5 12th and long par 3s such as Nos. 8 and 16.  What sets the course apart to me, however, are the short holes and the holes that require strategic decision-making off the tee. These include short par 4s such Nos. 2, 11 and 17 and mid-length par 4s including Nos. 5 and 14.  These holes can be just as difficult as the long ones, and they require a completely different skill set.  The short par-3 13th and short par-5 9th (plays as a par 4 for the U.S. Open) round out what is an amazing set of shorter holes.

A view of the ninth fairway from across the Pennsylvania Turnpike

The course uses the natural movement of the site very well and has a tight, extremely walkable routing despite being bisected by the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the bottom of the hill in the middle of the property. I particularly love the fallaway greens at 1, 10, 12, and to a lesser degree 3 and 15 where the front of the green is higher than the back. This is a unique look that you do not see in the USA very often. Without the little backboard that a back-to-front sloping green provides, you must hit the ball solid or execute a well played run-up shot to hold the green. The short par 4s temp the long hitter just enough to make them think about hitting driver, but wayward shots are punished enough to make most think twice. The 17th, at a little under 300 yards, could be the hardest hole on the course, and yet it is definitely drivable for the right player who hits a great drive. The small and extremely narrow green requires a short shot be hit the perfect distance if you decide to lay up to the right down the fairway. Hit it even a little short and you end up in the aptly named “Big Mouth” bunker which is extremely deep. Hit it a hair long or with not enough spin to hold the green and you end up rolling over the green into one of a few smaller bunkers. Carry the bunkers on the left side off the tee into the sliver of fairway up by the green and you have a short, open shot from a much better angle into the fatter part of the green. Such risk/reward and great use of angles is paramount to Oakmont’s genius.

Green complexes are…complex

The green on the 18th hole

Oakmont also sports one of the best sets of greens anywhere in the world.  They are all heavily contoured and very challenging, yet playable. You can certainly make putts out there if you are putting well, but get on the wrong side of the hole and you are left with an extremely difficult, but rarely impossible 2 putt. They are also very unique due to Fownes only designing one course, as they do not look like any other classic course; they have a feel all their own. They are mostly open in front, coming from the correct angle, and they have many squarish edges. They also cut the tight fringe far back into the fairway, which aids in run-up shots; it also gives a great look where the green and the fairway blend together seamlessly.

The bunkering is also very unique and very special… and they are true hazards. Find yourself in a fairway bunker off the tee, and you are likely wedging out without much of any chance of reaching the greens. The green-side bunkers are fearsome, very deep and difficult. The construction of the bunkers is unique too — most of them have very steep and tall faces that were built up in the line of play. Oakmont is also home to one of the most famous bunkers in golf; the “Church Pews” bunkers — a large, long rectangular bunker between the fairways of holes 3 and 4 with strips of grass in the middle like the pews in a church. There is also a smaller “Church Pews” bunker left of the fairway off the tee on hole 15. Hit it into one of these two bunkers and good luck finding a descent lie.

Ari’s last word

All-in-all, along with being one of the hardest courses in the world, Oakmont is also one of the best courses in the world. It is hard enough to challenge even the best players in the world day-in and day-out, but it can easily be played by a 15-handicap without losing a ball. It is extremely unique and varied and requires you to use every club in your bag along with your brain to be successful. Add that to a club that has as much history as any other in the county, and Oakmont is one of golf’s incredibly special places.

Your Reaction?
  • 13
  • LEGIT2
  • WOW2
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK1

Continue Reading

Courses

Coming Up: A Big Golf Adventure

Published

on

My name is Jacob Sjöman, and I’m a 35-year-old golf photographer who also enjoys the game we all love. I will be sharing some experiences here on a big golf trip that we are doing. With me I’ve got my friend Johan. I will introduce him properly later, but he is quite a funny character. According to Johan, he is the best golf photo assistant in the world, and we will see about that since this is probably his biggest test yet doing this trip. Previously on our trips, Johan almost got us killed in Dubai with a lack of driving skills. He also missed a recent evening photo shoot in Bulgaria while having a few beers too many… and that’s not all.

Anyway, the last couple of days I’ve been packing my bags over and over. I came home from the Canary Islands this Sunday and I’ve been constantly checking and rechecking that we’ve got all the required equipment, batteries, and that the cameras are 100 percent functional and good to go for this golf trip. I’m still not sure, but in a couple of minutes I will be sitting in a taxi to the airport and there will be no turning back.

Where are we going then? We are going to visit some of the very best golf courses in New Zealand and Australia. There will be breathtaking golf on cliffsides, jaw-dropping scenic courses, and some hidden gems. And probably a big amount of lost balls with a lot of material produced in the end.

I couldn’t be more excited for a golf journey like this one. Flying around the globe to these special golf courses I’ve only dreamed about visiting before gives me a big kick and I feel almost feel like a Indiana Jones. The only thing we’ve got in common, though, is that we don’t like snakes. Australia seems to be one of the worst destinations to visit in that purpose, but all the upsides are massive in this.

First, we will take off from a cold Stockholm (it’s raining heavily outside at the moment) and then we will do our first stop at Doha in Quatar. Then after two more hours, we are finally heading off to Auckland on the north island of New Zealand, a mega-flight of 16 hours. I believe that could very well be one of the longest flights available for a ordinary airplane. I need to check that.

Flights for me usually mean work, editing photos from different golf courses I’ve visited, writing some texts, editing some films, and planning for the future. Last time, though, I finally managed to sleep a little, which is a welcome progress for a guy that was deadly scared of flying until 2008.

Now, I am perfectly fine with flying. A few rocky flights over the Atlantic Sea to Detroit helped me a lot, and my motto is now, “If those flights got me down on the ground safely, it takes a lot of failures to bring down a plane.”

Anyway, I hope you will join me on this golf trip. Stay tuned!

Your Reaction?
  • 37
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW3
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK3

Continue Reading

19th Hole

Facebook

Trending