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Opinion & Analysis

Things that scare Tiger Woods (not Rory)

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By Zak Kozuchowski

GolfWRX Managing Editor

There’s a list of things that scare Tiger Woods, and despite what Greg Norman told FoxSports.com 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 GolfWRX.com. 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.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  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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Opinion & Analysis

Is golf actually a team sport?

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Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at edmyersgolf.com.

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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Opinion & Analysis

What is “feel” in putting… and how do you get it?

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You’re playing a course for the first time, so you arrive an hour early to warm-up. You make your way toward the practice green and you see a sign at the first tee that reads, “GREEN SPEED TODAY 11.”  That brings up two issues:

  1. How did they arrive at that number?
  2. How is that information valuable to me?

How did they arrive at that number?

They used what’s known as a stimpmeter — a device that’s used to measure the speed of a green. With a stimpmeter, the green’s surface is tested by rolling a ball down the 30-inch ramp that is tilted downward at a 20-degree angle. The number of feet the ball rolls after leaving the ramp is an indication of the green’s speed. The green-speed test is conducted on a flat surface. A total of three balls are rolled in three different directions. The three balls must then finish within eight inches of each other for the test to be valid.

For example, if the ball is rolled down the ramp and were to stop at 8 feet, the green would be running at an “8.” Were the ball to roll down the ramp and stop at 12 feet, the green would be running at a “12.”

Stimpmeter history

The stimpmeter was invented by Edward S. Stimpson, Sr., a Massachusetts State Amateur Champion and former Harvard Golf Team Captain. After attending the 1935 U.S. Open at Oakmont, he saw the need for a universal testing device after watching Gene Sarazen, who was at the top of his game, putt a ball off the green. He was of the opinion that the greens were unreasonably fast, but he had no way to prove it — thus the motivation for creating the invention.

The device is now used by superintendents to make sure all of their greens are rolling close to the same speed. This ensures that golfers are not guessing from one putt to another if a green is fast or slow based on the way it is maintained. The device is also used by tournament officials who want to make sure that green speed is not too severe.

Do Stimp readings matter for my game?

Not very much. That piece of abstract knowledge is of little value until you can translate it into your own personal feel for the speed of the putt. There is a method that will allow you to turn green speed into a legitimate feel, however, and you don’t even need a stimpmeter or a stimp reading to do it. I call it “Setting Your Own Stimpmeter.”

Before we get to how to do it, the first step is to determine if the putting green is the same speed as the greens on the course. The best source of information in this regard are the professionals working in the golf shop. They will be happy to share this information with you. You only need to ask. Assuming that the speed of the putting green is close to the speed of the greens on the course, you are ready to begin setting your own stimpmeter. This is done by inputting data into your neuromuscular system by rolling putts and visually observing the outcome.

Contrary to what most golfers believe, a golfer’s feel for distance is based in the eyes — not in the hands, which only records tactile information. It’s just like basketball. On the court, you look at the distance to the hoop and respond accordingly. While you would feel the ball in your hands, it doesn’t play a role in determining the proper distance to the hoop. Based on what you saw with your eyes, you would access the data that had been previously inputted through shooting practice.

Setting your own Stimpmeter

  1. Start by finding a location on the putting green that is flat and roughly 15 feet away from the fringe.
  2. Using five balls, start rolling putts one at a time toward the fringe. The objective is to roll them just hard enough for them to finish against the edge.
  3. You may be short of the fringe or long, but it is important that you do not judge the outcome— just observe, because the feel for distance is visually based.
  4. You should not try and judge the feel of the putt with your hands or any other part of your body. You can only process information in one sensory system at a time — that should be the eyes.
  5. You should continue to roll balls until you’ve reach the point that most of them are consistently finishing against the fringe. Once you can do that, you have successfully set you stimpmeter.

The key to the entire process is allowing yourself to make a subconscious connection between what your eyes have observed and the associated outcome. You must then trust what you have learned at a sub-conscious level. A conscious attempt to produce a given outcome will short-circuit the system. When it comes to judging speed, you must be prepared to surrender your conscious mind to your sub-conscious mind, which is infinitely wiser and more capable of calculating speed. Want proof? Work through the steps I’ve outlined below. .

  1. After having loaded the data as described in the exercise above, pace off a 25-foot putt.
  2. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole as you would normally using your conscious mind to control the outcome.
  3. Mark the location of the five balls with a tee pushing them down until they are level with the surface of the green.
  4. Allow your eyes to work slowly from the ball to the hole while clearing your conscious mind of any thought.
  5. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole allowing your subconscious mind to control the outcome.
  6. Compare the proximity of the five putts that you just hit to those marked with a tee. What do you observe?

Did you have trouble clearing your mind of any conscious thought? Assuming that your conscious mind intruded at any point, the outcome would be negatively affected. You should then repeat the exercise but this time, emptying your mind of any thought. You will have mastered the technique when you are able to quiet your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to take over.

This technique will improve your proximity to the hole on longer putts. And you know what that means? Fewer three-putts!

Editor’s Note: Rod Lindenberg has authored a book entitled “The Three-Putt Solution”  that is now available through Amazon. 

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Podcasts

TG2: What is this new Callaway iron? A deep investigation…

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Photos of a new Callaway iron popped up in the GolfWRX Forums, and equipment expert Brian Knudson and Editor Andrew Tursky discuss what exactly the new iron could be; new Apex pros, new Legacy irons, or maybe even a new X Forged? Also, the guys discuss Phil’s U.S. Open antics and apology, DJ’s driver shaft change, new Srixon drivers and utility irons, and a new Raw iron offering from Wilson. Enjoy the golf equipment packed show!

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

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