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Opinion & Analysis

Things that scare Tiger Woods (not Rory)



By Zak Kozuchowski

GolfWRX Managing Editor

There’s a list of things that scare Tiger Woods, and despite what Greg Norman told on Tuesday, being intimidated by Rory McIlroy is not one of them.

As McIlroy said in his press conference before the Tour Championship, “How could some little 23-year-old from Northern Ireland with a few wins come up and intimidate him?”

He’s right.

McIlroy is the most gifted golfer on the planet not named Tiger Woods. McIlroy is also extremely hot right now — he’s won three of the last four tournaments he’s played, including an 8-shot shellacking of the field at the PGA Championship.

But Woods has 74 PGA Tour victories, a list that includes 14 majors and 16 World Golf Championships. He also spent 623 ranked as the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Rankings, dealing with injuries and swing changes the whole way. While Woods fell to as low as No. 58 in the world in August 2011, he climbed back to No. 2 in less than a year. Doesn’t sound like a player who is intimidated, does it?

Despite what we once thought, Woods is not bulletproof. Off the golf course, he has undergone a life changing scandal that resulted in divorce, public mockery and a new level of criticism for golf analysts. These scars alone were a more formidable opponent than any of his competitors.

Yet Tiger has battled back from his self-inflicted hell, winning three times in 2012 and showing flashes of the old brilliance along the way. While the road toward Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championship wins should seem easier now than it did a year ago, Woods still has real threats to fear in the future.

Woods joked that he might be scared of McIlroy’s hair, but here are three things that actually scare Woods — much more than McIlroy and his youthful locks.

His health

Woods shocked no one when he said in his press conference before the Tour Championship that he’s never been intimidated by another golfer.

“No one the size of Ray Lewis is going to hit me coming over the middle, so this is a different kind of sport,” Woods said.  “It’s not like you go over the middle and some guy is 255 pounds and going to take your block off. This is about execution and going about your own business and see where it ends up at the end of the day.”

Woods has always said that he only enters tournaments when he thinks he can win. Like all of golf’s greats, he usually wins tournaments when he plays his best. But even though Woods is a golfer, his injuries are more similar to those of a football player. He’s had four surgeries on his left knee, becoming more fragile with each operation. He’s also sustained injuries to the muscles in his lower legs, back and neck. This makes it rare to see Woods play a tournament without limping or grimacing, meaning Woods has an equal chance of winning as he does withdrawing from events.

His swing

Many wealthy people buy new cars because they get tired of driving their old ones. Woods has changed his golf swing three times in his career under the tutelage of thee different instructors, giving the impression that he gets tired of winning with his old swing.

Woods’ most recent swing change under Sean Foley has been his most radical, drawing scathing criticism from analysts such as Brandel Chamblee, Johnny Miller, Peter Alliss and many others. Woods has said that his new swing is helping him drive it further and straighter and his statistics agree — he’s ranked 34th in driving distance in 2012, up from 71st in 2011, and 45th in driving accuracy, up from 186th last year. He’s also 8th in ball striking this year, up from 186th in 2011.

But Woods turns 37 in December, and because of his questionable health he needs to give himself as many chances as possible to win major championships. Even if the swing change under Foley is incorrect and it limits him to hitting mostly cut shots, another swing change would further delay his pursuit of Nicklaus’ record. For this reason, Woods would be better off dealing with a one-dimensional swing and hoping for a hot putter than to go back to the drawing board with another swing coach.

His putting

Speaking of his putter, Woods isn’t putting like he used to. And if Woods has lost his nerve, he’s also lost his dominance. We’ll likely know the answer to that question when Woods faces a putt to win a major championship. Until then, Woods needs to find a way to hole more putts — whether that means working on his mechanics or his patience is a decision only he can make.

In the last two FedExCup events that McIlroy has won, McIlroy has shot a combined 40-under and Woods has shot 35-under. Any professional golfer can say that they would have won a tournament if not for a few missed putts, but when Woods says that it means something — he’s easily the greatest clutch putter of all time.

McIlroy was asked at the Tour Championship press conference if he was intimidated by Tiger. He answered that intimidated wasn’t the right word.

” [I was] More just in awe of what he’s done, of his accomplishments, of his achievements, but never intimidated,” McIlroy said.

If Woods starts putting like he used to, however, McIlroy will have plenty reason to be intimidated. Like Woods took majors away from Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els in their prime, he could also steal them from McIlroy with a hot putter.

But that’s an enormous “if.”

It makes no sense that Woods would be intimidated by McIlroy, but it does make sense that Tiger could be jealous of him. McIlroy has everything Tiger had at the age of 23 — time was on his side, as was his health, his golf swing and his putting stroke. Now, Tiger doesn’t just have to beat all the golfers that tee it up in major championships, including McIlroy, he has to beat the clock. And as Woods’ hairline shows, right now he’s losing.

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

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Zak is the Editor-in-Chief of He's been a part of the company since 2011, when he was hired to lead GolfWRX's Editorial Department. Zak developed GolfWRX's Featured Writer Program, which supports aspiring writers and golf industry professionals. He played college golf at the University of Richmond (Go Spiders!) and still likes to compete in tournaments. You can follow Zak on Twitter @ZakKoz, where he's happy to discuss his game and all the cool stuff that's part of his job.



  1. Carter

    Sep 22, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    Tiger’s only fear is that the ghost of his future can’t live up to the ghost of his past.

  2. Richard

    Sep 21, 2012 at 4:01 am

    74 PGA wins 30 plus European wins and the list goes on and on

  3. Richard

    Sep 21, 2012 at 3:59 am

    Golf can change overnight Rory is doing very well right now but tiger record is just amazing 142 cuts made in a row 10 years domination 623 weeks world no1 and still winning tournaments

  4. JakeAzgolf

    Sep 21, 2012 at 12:02 am

    Golfchannel was so hung up on people saying that they call Rory the intimidator. haha love to watch Rory play but come back when your name is Tiger Woods!!!!!!!!!! #comeatmebro

  5. redsemen

    Sep 20, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    rory will not win 10 majors

  6. Sean

    Sep 19, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Tiger has 14 major championships, he does not give a %^&$ about anything or anybody. For all i care Tiger Woods could be at home doing the hammertime. # “cant touch this”

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Gary Player joins our 19th Hole podcast, talks past and future of golf



Hall-of-Famer and career Grand Slam winner Gary Player joins host Michael Williams for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf tournament and Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri. Player talks about the past and future of the game, including his take on everything from reigning in the golf ball and golf courses, to advocating for more testing for performance enhancing drugs on the Tour. Steve Friedlander of Big Cedar Lodge also appears.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Let’s Retire Old Man Par: A Modest Proposal



In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical essay entitled “A modest proposal,” in which he suggested that the Irish eat their own children. As might be expected, the piece drew a great deal of discussion and controversy. He was of course not serious, but simply attempting to make a point. As you will read this piece contains “A Modest Proposal” as well, but it is not intended to be satirical. I am for the record dead serious.

The golf industry is wringing its hands, trying to find a way to bring new players into the game, while at the same time keeping those that are in the game from leaving. They have initiated any number of programs designed for this purpose. How successful have they been? I would venture that they have barely moved the needle.

Barriers to the game

What we do know is that today there are three major barriers that confront the industry. They are first, the time required to play the game; second the costs associated with playing the game; and third the difficulty of the game.

There are among those adults that start the game, three distinct different groups:

  1. Those who would like to start playing golf but for any number of reasons decided not to take up the game.
  2. Those who once played more frequently but have reduced the number of rounds that they play.
  3. Those who started to play the game but then after a short period decided to leave it.

Those who leave the game

Those in the golf industry, the hand-wringers, have developed any number of programs to bring new players to the game. I would ask the question, “What is the point, when almost an equal number of players that start playing the game each year, decide to give it up within a span of a few months.

Does it make any sense to continue to put water into a bucket when there is a hole in the bottom? Of course not, but that is effectively what is being done. The first question to be ask, why do these new players quit the playing after a short time? In my opinion, the number No. 1 reason is the method of scoring being used.

Were an exit poll to be conducted asking these people why they quit playing, I seriously doubt they would answer truthfully. Who would want to admit that they were discouraged by their inability to succeed at any endeavor? The two answers that would be given the most often would be 1) that golf is too expensive to play; or 2) that they simply didn’t have time.  In this case both answers serve to preserve the individual’s dignity. And who could blame them?

The concept of par

Why did these individuals find the game difficult? The short answer is that while golf is a hard game to learn, there  is a more compelling reason.  I would venture, that the underlying reason they quit the game is that it ceased to be fun because of how they viewed their performance. And for one central reason… the concept of par. The idea that an amateur golfer, especially a beginner, should measure their level of success against an imaginary set of numbers that represents what an expert player would score on each hole is on the surface ridiculous.

You might imagine a beginning player scoring an eight on a par-four hole after hitting six good shots and then two putting for an eight. In the context of their ability, they should be ecstatic — but of course they are not (because as their playing partner reminds them) they were four-over par on that hole. The time has come for Old Man Par to retire. And retire permanently. He is killing the game.

Perceived failure

In another scenario, the beginning player scores sixty for nine holes, which is an excellent score given the short amount of time they might have spent playing the game. And yet their nine-hole score was 24-over par. How would that make you feel? Would you be encouraged or discouraged? You might imagine yourself back in school and regardless of the amount of work that you put into a given class you always receive an “F.” At some point, would you give up?

Why should every golfer be judged by the same standard when there is such inequality in their ability? The equivalent would be placing a high school freshman in a graduate-level college course, expecting that they could perform at the same level as the other graduate students. The disparity in knowledge, based on age and experience, is precisely the reason why there are different grades in school. The same disparity exists among golfers. In this case, the difference being the ability to perform on the golf course as opposed to the classroom.

What about the second group of players that now plays less than they did in the past? Could it be that they are no longer having fun playing the game?And then there is the third group, those that consider playing the game but abandon it for another sport. Could it be that they are intimidated by the scoring system, knowing that as a beginner par is an absolute impossibility?

Old man par 

The legendary Bobby Jones was the first to coin, perhaps with the help of his friend O.B. Keillor, the phrase “Old Man Par.” Jones was, of course, the greatest amateur to have ever played the game. He won the Grand Slam in 1930, retiring then at the age of 28.

The time has come to retire “Old Man Par” and devise a new system for measuring a golfer’s progress in the game. I know that those in the USGA. would reject the concept immediately for fear of, and here is a $10 word used primarily by attorneys, “bifurcate” the game. What that word essentially means in this context in having more than one standard. The USGA is responsible for preserving the nature of the game, but at the same time it should be equally concerned with preserving the future of the game.

Personal par

What I would suggest is a system based on the principle of what might be termed “personal par.” This was essentially the system that was used to groom a young Tiger Woods. As a young child, he was not capable of reaching the longer holes in regulation, making par a virtual impossibility. Consequently, his coach wisely devised a system in which par was adjusted upward based on his ability at a given point in time. This served to keep the young child feeling good about his performance and subsequent progress.

This is the type of system that needs to be devised for the health of the game. The system would begin at a nine-hole level using a par of thirty-six as a basis. The actual numbers are not as important as the basic concept. There would be within the nine-hole and the eighteen-hole groups five different levels as follows with assigned par for each hole and eighteen holes roughly equal with the player’s ability.

As players improved, they would graduate from one level to another based on their total score. The handicap system would work in similar fashion as it does now with a single modification. The strokes give from one player to another would depend on the level in which they fall and the par assigned to that level.

The personal par handicap system would not be as exacting as it is presently used, but it would be sufficient to allow players to be reasonable competitive without any significant sacrifice. There would then be two scoring systems then, allowing players to choose which one they wanted to use. Or a recommendation might be given that until they reach a given scoring threshold that they use the personal par scoring system.

There would, of course, be the usual concern with something new being injected into the system, but the proposed change would be no greater than when the system of equitable scoring was introduced or when courses were first assigned a course rating number.

A few years ago, when life-long teacher and educator Dr. Gary Wiren was inducted into the Golf Teacher’s Hall of Fame, he wanted to pass along a single piece of advice to those teachers in the room. “Gentleman,” he started and then paused for emphasis. “We must find a way to make the game more fun for our students.”

I’m in full agreement with Dr. Wiren. The question is, “What is the best way to accomplish that goal?” I believe that that the first step in that direction is to change the scoring system so that golfers experience more satisfaction and accomplishment. That is what makes learning fun.

And so, I would have you consider “The Modest Proposal” that I have put forward. And rather than attempting to find reasons why a revised scoring system couldn’t never work, for the benefit of the game, look for the same number of reason why it could work. The time has come for Old Man Par, as we know him, to retire. He has served us well, but he has become an anarchism. He is as obsolete as the horse and buggy. Let’s hand him his gold watch and let him enjoy his golden years in peace.

And at the same time, let’s welcome the “new kid on the block” who will pave the way for the next generation of golfers pioneering a scoring system that promises to make the game more “fun.”

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TG2: What’s the most annoying breach of golf etiquette?



What’s the one breach of golf etiquette that gets under your skin more than anything else? Equipment expert Brian Knudson and GolfWRX Editor Andrew Tursky discuss what drives them crazy. Also, Knudson talks about his first round with new irons and a new shaft in his driver.

Follow @tg2wrx on Instagram to enter the Bettinardi inovai 5.0 center-shaft putter giveaway.

Listen to the full podcast below on SoundCloud, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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19th Hole