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With Tiger Woods, is it positive thinking or denial?

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When great athletes struggle, they are almost always interviewed after their poor performances and their answers to the line of questioning that follows is predictable. They say things such as:

  • “I’m getting close.”
  • “I played well, just didn’t turn out my way.”
  • “I just couldn’t get a good pitch to hit.”
  • “My back has been tight, it should loosen up soon and I’ll be fine.”
  • “I just need to get some more playing time under my belt.”

Blah, blah, blah, we say. Maybe, but maybe not.

Tiger Woods epitomizes this approach to interviews. The best player I’ve ever seen for his 12 years of dominance is obviously a shell of what he was in his great years. Yet when he’s interviewed, he NEVER thinks he is “that far off.”

Interesting.

On one hand, we could say it’s the same power of positive thinking that made him so great. On the other hand, might it simply be a case of denial? I’d like to get some unbiased opinions (I know that’s tough when we’re talking about Tiger) on what side of that debate you’re on.

For those of you old enough to remember Steve Carlton in his prime, you’ll agree he was one of the most dominant pitchers EVER. Flash forward to his last years with the Chicago White Sox and he was serving up blooper balls for lunch. Yet he still SWORE he could be great again.

Unfortunately, I’m also old enough to remember Willie Mays in his prime. Nobody better, maybe ever. Think about his days with the Mets when he was falling down missing curve balls by a foot. Now both Lefty and the Say Hey Kid were down the road age wise, but it didn’t seem to diminish their optimism — or their denial. I just can’t figure out if they were kidding us or kidding themselves.

I’m also not saying Tiger is done; I’m a huge fan of what he’s done for golf, and having had the opportunity to play with him once, of him as well. And I do think he will win again. Dominate, no. But win sometimes? Yes.

But for now, when Tiger claims he’s “close” is he simply refusing to allow any negative thought to enter his psyche or is he kidding himself? I think even ardent Tiger fans will agree that based on what we’ve seen this year (with the possible exception of Augusta National, where I think he could play well left-handed) he’s not really “close.” But this is Tiger Woods, a man who has more major championships than missed cuts!

If any player were ever to believe in himself to the point of possible denial, I for one am affording Tiger Woods that luxury.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

66 Comments

66 Comments

  1. David

    Jun 27, 2015 at 5:12 am

    Hank Haney explained this very well back in April. I’m not sure why you guys don’t believe him. Tiger has the yips. Not just in his short game. Everywhere. You don’t get rid of the yips. All you can do is hope for good shots in between yips. He knows he has it. He also knows he can’t get rid of it. We have Jordan Spieth now. I feel confident that he, along with Rory, will catch Jack’s record of 18. One of them will break it. Jordan Spieth. The year will be 2032.

  2. Mark

    Jun 10, 2015 at 5:23 am

    Face up to it – Tiger’s career is in the departure lounge. It’s been great fun but it’s time to move on and crown the next icon. History will pass judgement on his place in the game – it will at least say he was the best of his era. He won’t be revered like Ben, loved like Arnie and he won’t be admired like Jack but he will be in most people’s all time top three because his record merits it alone.

    The flame might flicker again briefly and remind us of what we are missing but the competition is a lap ahead now.

    • Jeff*

      Jun 14, 2015 at 7:42 pm

      Most people’s top 3? He’s Jack Nicklaus’s pick for best player of all time. Anyone who puts him anywhere but greatest of all time is simply old.

      • Robeli

        Jun 18, 2015 at 11:04 pm

        Yea, and that’s only because Jack is humble enough not to pick himself. Jack is 10 times better golfer than Tiger. Tiger had technology for him, Jack not.

  3. Jeez Utz

    Jun 9, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    I can’t think of one player who’s been around a few years that hasn’t shot 80something……
    I’m not saying that he’s done but I’ll admit that I’m not buying tiger stock anymore…
    If he hasn’t started winning by next years open championship I feel it may be over….
    And it’s fine, everyone’s time passes and WE don’t know what Tiger puts value on in his personal life..
    It’s disappointing that (for the most part) everything he does gets criticized and after it’s over we’ll reflect on how great it was..just like other all time greats
    All the legends go through this I’m sure

  4. Butch Harmon

    Jun 9, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Pride goeth before the fall. Even Jack asked for help from those with experience.

    • Robeli

      Jun 9, 2015 at 2:31 pm

      Humble does not exist in Tiger’s vocabulary.

  5. Mad-Mex

    Jun 9, 2015 at 3:17 am

    Wonder how long before he starts doing adds for Warrior Golf,,,,,

    Hi! Remember me? Am Tiger Woods! If you call within the next 15 minutes you will get this new Hybrid-Wedge combo with a pro style shaft for free! Just pay shipping and handling!

  6. Mo

    Jun 8, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    Being publicly shamed has destroyed his self esteem. He knows that everybody thinks his behaviour was disgusting and he agrees with them.

    Maybe a good psychologist could repair his self image in time, but until that’s fixed any chance of “swing fixes” solving the problem are zero.

  7. Robeli

    Jun 8, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Hmmm… Tiger Woods is following the career path of Mike Tyson – sport and personal wise.

  8. Papi

    Jun 8, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Tiger Woods is not in Denial.
    But Golf Is.

    Tiger Woods has played 5 Tournaments this season and the season is a few weeks from 8 months old.
    That’s not Denial, that’s inactivity mainly due to injuries. That happens to be Fact.

    A Guy who still today despite the worst golf of his career who still sports a 26% World Wide Win Record with 90 Wins when his closest competitor Phil has half that number of Wins is in Denial?

    Tiger is 0-17 since his last PGA Tour Win a season that he won 5 Times. 0 for 17.
    Phil is 0-38 since his last PGA Tour Wins and instead of articles about him being in Denial we get articles about him leaving $99 Tips for Lemonade?

    Golf is in Denial. Not Tiger Woods.
    A Guy who has Won Majors with 3 Different Swings is not in Denial.
    If you listen to Tiger he is actually very honest about where he is with his game.

    But we have a bunch of Fat Couch Potato Hack Writers and Fans who seem to forget that this man had Back Surgery 14 months ago and tried to come back to soon and it is lead to 5 Tournaments played in 2015 while changing his swing to something that won’t break his back and bust his Knee.

    Maybe you Clowns should give that a Try.
    Tiger Woods is not in Denial.
    Golf is by continuing to Disrepect the Greatest Player in the History of the Game and continue to Lie thru it’s Teeth that Jack is the Greatest When Tiger has Destroyed Every Single Meaningful Record there is of Jack’s in Golf other than playing in 164 Majors. 68 for Tiger. The Rest He Owns Jack.

    So Golf. Yes It Is You who is in Denial.
    Tiger is not. He’s simply the Greatest Golfer who Ever Played this Game.

    • Robeli

      Jun 8, 2015 at 10:14 pm

      How does the Kool Aid taste?

      • Scooter McGavin

        Jun 9, 2015 at 12:44 pm

        Real original. Although sadly, not a sound argument. Next time, try addressing the points made (that are, in this case, facts) by the other person. From what I read, most of what was said was spot-on.

        • Robeli

          Jun 12, 2015 at 12:21 pm

          Scooter McGavin – what a real original name.

  9. Robert

    Jun 8, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    If you remember his interviews when he was great, if he played like crap, he didn’t sugarcoat it like this. He said, “I had my C game out there. I played terrible.” He would have never said, “I hit some good shots, I just need to get a little better”. He has a different mindset now and it’s not the killer instinct. It’s gone forever.

  10. dapadre

    Jun 8, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    Im a HUGE Tiger fan, lets get that out now. Anyone who loves this great game of ours cannot deny he changed it, brought it to main stream and showed us what great golf was with one of the most complete games ever seen. Even the great Nicklaus has been quoted as saying: without a doubt he was better than I was. Back in 2001 he also said he would be surprised if Woods didn’t beat his record. Fast forward and one questions if we were talking about the same player.

    I think two things have caused this. One the INCIDENT ( we all know what I mean), played an ENNORMOUS role. We all know that at that level its 10% skill and 90% mind. He lost his edge that faithful day. He had to face the idea of what everyone was REALLY thinking when they saw him. Also his competitors we reaffirmed: HE IS HUMAN, and nothing brings a person faster to earth like a dose of humility. He didn’t get a dose he got the whole bottle. I personally can separate Tiger the golfer and Tiger the husband/father, but many cannot and he could not. It’s the price one pays for being famous.

    Secondly, this crazy game of ours is one of the very few where you cant score a PERFECT score. In baseball you have the no hitter, basketball you can go perfect shooting and from the free throw line, bowling 300… you get the picture. In our sport the perfect score would be an ace on all 18 holes. As this is impossible, there is this yearning to get as perfect as possible. One of Tigers most famous quotes was, if you do nothing, you are standing still. This has cost him. In his search for perfection, he failed to realise that 99.9% (purely an example here) is not bad after all.

    He has ruined what he had and to get back will be hard, if not impossible. I would love to see it, but not facing reality would be doing what Tiger is doing, DENIAL.

  11. Captain Oblivious

    Jun 8, 2015 at 8:58 am

    Yes, Tiger needs to go back to Butch, re-hire Stevie, pull out the old Scotty, annul his marriage and somehow convince Elin to stuff those kids back in the womb, Rogain his receding hairline, get back to his “Buddhist roots” and last, but not least, dig ol’ Earl up out of the ground.

    • Pat M

      Jun 8, 2015 at 3:32 pm

      Elin does not want him back. Nike needs to pay Butch $3 million a year and also Steve $4 million a year. It is Eldrick’s only hope. Stick a fork in him. He cannot play with Spieth. And tell Jordan to start the Rogaine now so he does not turn into Tiger aka PED forhead.

  12. Jeff

    Jun 7, 2015 at 11:33 pm

    From all the books I’ve read about him and what I’ve seen, Tiger Woods appears to enjoy motivating himself to climb bigger and bigger mountains. In his young career, he stepped up and delivered time and time again, he won so many golf tournaments it changed the sport and the way players prepared to play the sport… Post 09 Tiger has appeared to be creating a huge challenge for himself to overcome. I think he’s over challenged himself at this point.

    To answer the question from the title directly, I think it’s both, the happy man’s positive thinking is the depresso’s denial. It’s all about perspective. What is there to gain from seeing ones struggles as impossible to fix rather than close to being fixed? I love watching golf when Tiger wins so I’ll keep hoping to see the magic come back. Is it really close? Wouldn’t that be sweet.

  13. christian

    Jun 7, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    Who cares about comparisons to baseball? Internationally, where we play a lot of golf, baseball is seen as a slow moving game devoid of much action st all with pudgy looking players in far too tight pants.

    • Patricknorm

      Jun 8, 2015 at 6:31 am

      You’ve never tried to hit a curve ball or even a fastball at 88 mph ( which is barely a fastball). Baseball is a nuanced game much like golf. Those two skill sets I’ve described for basebasell might be the hardest things to do in sports. Period. Actually the comparison was apt. But only for those who appreciate baseball.
      As a qualifier I love baseball and have always yearned to master these skills.

      • christian

        Jun 8, 2015 at 11:26 am

        Sure, that’s probably hard to do, hit the fast ball or curve ball..But in between those rare clean hits there is a lot of dead time, people wandering around, beer&hot dogs are eaten. There can’t be that much “nuance” to it. Seems like a pretty one-dimensional, simple game.

    • Jay

      Jun 8, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      The article I read made no comparison of golf to baseball – it compared Tiger to 2 other greats who were playing their chosen sport at a level far below their best

  14. cb

    Jun 7, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    I’m of the belief that he needs to take a break from competitive golf but still practice as if he were playing competitive. he obviously isn’t used to his swing changes. no one ever feels the same every morning when they wake up, so something for him could feel great one day and terrible the next. and with a new swing he might not know how to swing the new way with how he is feeling that day. when he was younger he had the same swing for years so his body knew what to do when he felt a certain way. he needs reps and reps, and hitting shots in front of a crowd or trying to figure things out in the middle of a round at a tournament are not the places to get those reps in.

    • Matty D

      Jun 7, 2015 at 10:56 pm

      I agree, gotta give him tell the end of the season at the least for conclusions can be made.

    • Martin B

      Jun 8, 2015 at 11:15 pm

      I think the he should actually be playing more tournaments at this point to fine tune his game and get the competitive juices flowing.

  15. Kevin

    Jun 7, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    His short game, more often than not, is still dominant (and in his prime was the best ever). If he could hit more fairways, he could contend more. The fields now are MUCH better than they were when he was on his run in the early 2000’s. He’s like Larry Holmes in boxing in that regard, Holmes was so much better than anyone else at the time, but there weren’t other great heavy weights around when he was at his best. Tiger didn’t face great Sunday players like Trevino, Watson, Player, Miller, Casper, Palmer, etc, but all the while it seemed like he went about eight-years without missing a putt inside 10′. Greatest combination of short game and iron game dominance ever, and don’t forget his between the ears advantage. He changed the sport forever…

    • S

      Jun 8, 2015 at 2:36 am

      Yes. Saturday was an indication of how the game will change for the better without him. Saturday was probably one of the best days in the history of golf.

    • S

      Jun 8, 2015 at 2:39 am

      I really enjoyed Saturday. That was probably one of the most enjoyable Saturdays in golf I’ve experienced. The sickness will be gone soon.

    • Sat

      Jun 8, 2015 at 3:31 am

      That was such a great Saturday though

  16. Greg

    Jun 7, 2015 at 11:19 am

    I’m not sure what to think of hs play anymore. As far as what he tells the media, I think it’s both for his benefit and his denial. I don’t think he really cares what the media says or thinks about him. It’s obvious by the choices in his lifestyle are still poor! Issues are apaarent

  17. Nolanski

    Jun 7, 2015 at 9:33 am

    I’m grateful to have had the pleasure to watch Tiger when he was in his prime. But these young guns are so much fun to follow today that I’m ready to let go of hoping the old Tiger is going to walk through that door again.

  18. Pat M

    Jun 7, 2015 at 8:28 am

    He is 27 strokes behind the leader at the end of the third round. After this tournament I think he will be about #200th in the world or worse. Will N*ke keep running the ads for this guy?

    • other paul

      Jun 8, 2015 at 1:15 am

      I doubt Nike can pull out. Contract is a contract.

  19. Ben Hogan

    Jun 7, 2015 at 7:38 am

    I think that it is always important as a professional golfer or athlete to believe in yourself. Where else are you going to get the confidence to pull of shots otherwise. I personally think it is exactly what Tiger says it is when describing what he is going through. He is trying to change his release pattern but at the moment is unsure of exactly what release pattern will produce the results he wants. This is evident by his comments about small changes since the masters and then again this week since the players. Tiger has a lot of strong fundamentals of golf in his golf game and is one of the reasons why he was always able to produce in clutch moments. Right now you can see him making slight differences in his stance, posture, and grip and has Hogan said that is more than 80-85% of playing golf. I think he will eventually find the right combination that allows him to have a go to shot or eliminate one side of the golf course but it’s a process of finding out the feels that work for you.

  20. John

    Jun 7, 2015 at 7:13 am

    Wow! 13 over par on a track that where he used to run over the field and then back up to make sure they were all dead.

    Seems to me that, when looking at Tiger’s playing career going back to when he was a junior, he has “progressed backwards” in terms of his decisions regarding his game. Especially concerning teachers. The old teachers were their own men with their own opinions, the newest ones are Yes-men sycophants IMO.

    His first teaching pros (Duran, Anselmo) were old school meat&potatoes type pros who focused on the important parts (eg: The clubface and shotmaking) and they allowed Tiger to find his own swing while still keeping his on course performance a notch or two above the competition.

    His next two teaching pros, Butch and Hank, simplified his action(s) and stayed out of his way to allow him to shoot lights out. Both Hank and Butch were accomplished players in the past. Both know what it FEELS like to be out there inside the ropes with a scorecard and pencil in hand. No amount of theory gained from books or classes or over priced seminars can ever replace actual playing experience. Never.

    The last two “coaches”…as I prefer to call them (Foley and Como) do not come from a competitive playing background at all, they’re more like friendly golf-nerds. Not that they’re wrong in whatever info they’ve given Tiger, but the application part of it is where things have gotten off the tracks so to speak yet no one has ever admitted any wrong doing. Sycophants.

    It looks more like he’s been playing “bio-mechanic/kinetic golfswing” versus plain old “put the ball into the hole with a stick”. How he gets his game on track is up to him and him alone…not thru yet another miracle or new fangled theory.

    Tiger switching coaches at his age after being crazy good and dominant in his sport would be like a 26yr old Wayne Gretzky, after winning yet another Stanley Cup and all sorts of scoring records, deciding to relearn the way he skates on ice. Ridiculous and a waste of time/money.

    phew..off the soapbox. Longtime reader/very infrequent poster here on golfwrx

  21. Booger

    Jun 7, 2015 at 12:48 am

    Every photo of tiger this year shows him with a huge fake smile. Nice try publicist. A smile on the course is rare.

  22. Pat M

    Jun 7, 2015 at 12:10 am

    Is N*ke still going to keep selling this guy like he is a top player? At this point, he could not make it on the Web.com tour. The only things that could save his career is going back to Butch Harmon and rehiring Stevie Williams. If he does not do that, he is over. Lindsay Vonn knew it was over. She is a champion athlete and knows second place is for losers. tiger is what? 172nd in the world?

    • Pat M

      Jun 7, 2015 at 8:12 am

      It’s over. Either Tiger goes back to Butch and rehires Steve Williams (greatest caddy to play the game) or Tiger is over.

  23. MRC

    Jun 7, 2015 at 12:01 am

    Turn out the lights, the party’s over.

  24. BigBoy

    Jun 6, 2015 at 11:59 pm

    If he doesn’t get his life outside of golf right, his golfing days are over.
    He may want to start with 8 hours a day on the range, no matter what swing he has.

    • Pat M

      Jun 7, 2015 at 12:11 am

      He has to go back to Butch and rehire Steve Williams. Boy Joe Lacava made a big mistake leaving DJ.

  25. mhendon

    Jun 6, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    He’s not in denial, he’s just lying to the media and the rest of us. He’s lost his confidence plain and simple. He needs to quit using various instructors as a crutch and just start playing golf. First things first, get to where he has a one way miss then He’ll know where his ball is going. From there he can start rebuilding his confidence and that in turn will take pressure off his short game.

  26. joey5picks

    Jun 6, 2015 at 11:46 pm

    Denial. 100% denial.

  27. RG

    Jun 6, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    Dennis,
    I corresponded with you earlier this year about Tiger and his chipping woes. I told you that when I saw him up close in January at Tavistock I could see fear in his eyes when he went to chip.I could see the hesitancy and jittery movement in his eyes. This caused some debate because Tiger had said it was a technique issue and many on this forum agreed. You, on the other hand, got what I was saying. How clear does my statement appear now?
    This is what is ailing Tiger:
    It was to easy. We look at Tiger’s dominance and think,”Wow if only I could do that.” Let me tell you something, Domination get’s boring. When your that far ahead you need a reason to keep working and pushing. When a child or adult is not challenged they will invent challenge’s for themselves and this is what Tiger did. He decided to change his swing. This decision cost him because we now know that was a poor decision, and poor decisions damage the psyche. He told everyone the swing change was for physical reasons but that’s hogwash. If that’s true, why are you always hurt?
    Along the way he got caught cheating on his wife, which is even more damage to the psyche. This damaged psyche causes fear and doubt to creep into the mind. Tiger never experienced fear and doubt until he was well into his adult life. He has no coping mechanisms for these negative states.
    He is definitely in a state of denial. He definitely thinks he’s close.
    What does he need to do? Forgive himself and realize that he is human after all.

  28. ML

    Jun 6, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    Just like when he had the chipping yips

    Month later his short game was back after the whole world gathered to watch him chip for Christ sake

    He’ll make it back and I can’t stand the guy

    It’s one round and its golf

    Again he won a major with no driver eventually he’ll settle on some sort of swing thought and go back to playing golf

  29. jacob

    Jun 6, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    My old man always said one thing about golf, when you are playing good you never think you are going to play bad, and when you are playing bad you never think you are going to play good. Tiger era of the Tiger Slam dominance is over, he’s even admitted it. The thing is, I think we as spectators are in denial because we want to see him recapture that. But, he is being positive..but isn’t being positive a bit of denial in it’s own right? Denying the negative in life and focusing on the good?I’m sure he has some gas left in the tank. But I do believe he won’t start winning until he grinds again. When he decides to play as many tournaments as Phil or Rory he’ll be back.

    • Mat

      Jun 6, 2015 at 11:23 pm

      I can’t agree more. We hear all about the “mental game” being important. This guy has more mental game than anyone ever has. When it’s new success, “only he could have believed it”. When it’s failure after success, he’s “delusional”. Here’s the thing… it’s the same. He’s been the same, robotically focused guy. It’s everyone else that changes. Clearly he has issues, but do you think he’s going to say that in an interview now? Come on… never has, never will.

    • Pat M

      Jun 7, 2015 at 12:13 am

      As of today he is 172nd in the world? After this tourney he will be probably 200th in the world? He will be back? Yeah sure.

      • Mat

        Jun 7, 2015 at 3:20 am

        That’s not the point. The point isn’t whether he makes it back; the point is that he has a mental game we should all aspire to. What seems like denial will be his greatest ally. The results are still in doubt, obviously. But we all have the benefit of being objective. Why vilify the guy for doing what he’s supposed to?

        • Pat M

          Jun 7, 2015 at 8:15 am

          What mental game? He lost that a long time ago. He is not the toughest mentally. In golf you make cuts and shoot low scores. 85 does not cut it on any tour. He should consider the Hooters Tour.

    • Dennis Clark

      Jun 7, 2015 at 6:41 am

      Your old man said a mouthful. That is the essence of our game. It’s curse and its blessing!!

  30. Guia

    Jun 6, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    He is in Denial, and I don’t mean the river. He could have stuck with any of the 3 previous coaches and he would still be winning. He has drank his own koolaid and unfortunately believes he is bullet proof. He has come to believe that it is the swing that wins golf tournaments, it isn’t and never has been.
    I believe he is too proud to admit that this new method is just not working! He is the Captain of his own fate and will go down with the ship. He has forgotten how to play golf and how to score, and is now wrapped up in Technical Mumbo-Jumbo. Over coached.
    I have always been a Tiger fan (of his golf), however, now he has reached the John Daly plateau, people are watching to see how he will self-destruct. Very sad. I would love to eat my words, but it is doubtful.

  31. Double Mocha Man

    Jun 6, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    I think he still hits the same shots he used to hit… just not as often. That’s where the denial lies.

  32. Nice Impact

    Jun 6, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    I think Tiger truly does believe he’s close, or not far off. I don’t think it’s denial. I think that anyone who is good/great at what they do genuinely has to want to feel that way to keep themselves moving forward, knowing that it doesn’t help to give in to negative thinking; especially out loud. Most of us will feel this way about our own professions and hobbies in some aspect as we get older and our bodies don’t quite feel as consistent as our minds. In our minds, were still capable of what we once were until we’ve met enough resistance telling us otherwise. And even then, we’ll still swear we can “do it” (whatever “it” is). Agreed; his consistent best is behind him now, but he can/will still have some special moments if he can adjust. Of course, just my .02¢.

    • Dennis Clark

      Jun 6, 2015 at 8:50 pm

      good point; its hard to tell what that level player is thinking but affirming the negative is going the wrong way i think?

  33. Dennis Clark

    Jun 6, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    LOL…that’s the point though…did he really believe that when he said it?

  34. Johnny

    Jun 6, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Was his glutes activated??

  35. Dennis Clark

    Jun 6, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    me too, and Im HOPING he gets it sorted out…Im not ready to see history go away this soon!

    • Steve

      Jun 6, 2015 at 8:20 pm

      I think the ship has sailed. This isnt a case of getting close, it is a case of getting further away. The twenty something pros have no Tiger scar tissue. This season looks like a loss. Entering his forties the future is dim. He couldnt win on the WEB.com tour.

  36. stu

    Jun 6, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    de nial is not just a river in Africa!

  37. Matto

    Jun 6, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    An 85 surely is pure and simple, playing poorly? No press conference after that round either. I think HE even thought it might be tricky to put a positive spin on that round. I’m still a big fan.

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Squares2Circles: Course strategy refined by a Ph.D.

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What do you get when you combine Division I-level golf talent, a Ph.D. in Mathematics, a passion for understanding how people process analytical information, and a knowledge of the psychology behind it? In short, you get Kevin Moore, but the long version of the story is much more interesting.

Kevin Moore attended the University of Akron on a golf scholarship from 2001-2005. Upon completing his tenure with the team, he found himself burned out on the game and promptly hung up his sticks. For a decade.

After completing his BS and MS degrees at the University of Akron, Kevin then went to Arizona State to pursue his Ph.D. Ultimately what drew him to the desert was the opportunity to research the psychology behind how people process analytical information. In his own words:

“My research in mathematics education is actually in the realm of student cognition (how students think and learn). From that, I’ve gained a deep understanding of developmental psychology in the mathematical world and also a general understanding of psychology as a whole; how our brains work, how we make decisions, and how we respond to results.”

In 2015, Kevin started to miss the game he loved. Now a professor of mathematics education at the University of Georgia, he dusted off his clubs and set a goal to play in USGA events. That’s when it all started to come together.

“I wanted to play some interesting courses for my satellite qualifiers and I wasn’t able to play practice rounds to be able to check them out in advance. So I modified a math program to let me do all the strategic planning ahead of time. I worked my way around the golf course, plotting out exactly how I wanted to hit  shot, and minimizing my expected score for each hole. I bundled that up into a report that I could study to prepare for the rounds.

“I’m not long enough to overpower a golf course, so I needed to find a way to make sure I was putting myself in the best positions possible to minimize my score. There might be a pin position on a certain green where purposely hitting an 8-iron to 25 feet is the best strategy for me. I’ll let the rest of the field take on that pin and make a mistake even if they’re only hitting wedge. I know that playing intelligently aggressive to the right spot is going to allow me to pick up fractions of strokes here and there.”

His plan worked, too. Kevin made it to the USGA Mid-Amateur at Charlotte Country Club in September of 2018 using this preparation method for his events just three years after taking a decade off of golf. In case you missed the implied sentiment, that’s extremely impressive. When Kevin showed his reports to some friends that played on the Web.com Tour and the Mackenzie Tour, they were so impressed they asked him to think about generating them for other people. The first group he approached was the coaching staff at the University of Georgia, who promptly enlisted his services to assist their team with course strategy in the spring of 2019. That’s when Squares2Circles really started to get some traction.

At that point, UGA hadn’t had a team win in over two seasons. They also hadn’t had an individual winner in over one season and had missed out on Nationals the previous two seasons. In the spring of 2019, they had three team wins (including winning Regionals to advance to Nationals) and two individual wins (including Davis Thompson’s win at Regionals). Obviously, the credit ultimately belongs to the players on the team, but suffice it to say it appears as though Kevin’s involvement with the team was decidedly useful.

“One of the things we really focused in on was par 3 scoring. They finished 3rd, 2nd, 4th, and 3rd in the field as a team in their spring tournaments. Then at the SEC’s they struggled a bit and finished 6th in the field. At Regionals, they turned it around and finished 1st in the field with a score of +6 across 60 scores (186 total on 60 par 3’s, an average of 3.10).”

Sample Squares2Circles layout for the 18th hole at Muirfield Village. Advanced data redacted.

Kevin is available outside of his work with UGA and has been employed by other D-I teams (including his alma mater of Akron), Mackenzie Tour players, Web.com Tour players, and competitive juniors as well. Using his modified math program, he can generate generic course guides based on assumed shot dispersions, but having more specific Trackman data for the individual allows him to take things to a new level. This allows him to show the player exactly what their options are with their exact carry numbers and shot dispersions.

“Everything I do is ultimately based off of strokes gained data. I don’t reinvent the wheel there and I don’t use any real new statistics (at least not yet), but I see my role as interpreting that data. Let’s say a certain player is an average of -2.1 on strokes gained approach over the last 10 rounds. That says something about his game, but it doesn’t say if it’s strategy or execution. And it doesn’t help you come up with a practice plan either. I love to help players go deeper than just the raw data to help them understand why they’re seeing what they’re seeing. That’s where the good stuff is. Not just the data, but the story the data tells and the psychology behind it. How do we get ourselves in the right mindset to play golf and think through a round and commit to what we’re doing?”

“Even if you’re able to play practice rounds, this level of preparation turns those practice rounds into more of an experiment than a game plan session. You go into your practice round already knowing the golf course and already having a plan of attack. This allows you to use that practice round to test that game plan before the competition starts. You may decide to tweak a few things during your practice round based on course conditions or an elevation change here and there, but for the most part it’s like you’ve gained a free practice round. It allows you to be more comfortable and just let it fly a lot earlier.”

Kevin is in the process of building his website, but follow @squares2circles on Twitter for more information and insight.

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