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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

15 hot takes from Greg Norman on our 19th Hole podcast

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Our Michael Williams spoke with the Great White Shark himself, Greg Norman, for GolfWRX’s 19th Hole podcast. Not surprisingly, the two-time major champion had no shortage of hot takes.

While you’ll want to check out the full ‘cast, here are 15 takes of varying degrees of hotness, from Norman’s feelings about bifurcation to whether he’d pose for ESPN’s Body Issue.

1) He wants bifurcation immediately, rolling back technology for the pros, rolling it forward for amateurs

“I would instigate a bifurcation of the rules. I would roll back the golf ball regulations to pre-1996. I would roll back the technology that’s in the golf equipment for the professionals. And I would open up the technology and give it to the masses because the pros who developed the maximum club head speed of 118, 120 are the ones who maximize what technology is in that piece of equipment. So the person who’s under 100 miles an hour does not hit the ball an extra 30, 35 yards at all. They may pick up a few yards but they don’t get the full benefit of that technology…I would definitely do that because I think we’ve gotta make the game more fun for the masses. “

2) He has no relationship with Tiger Woods and doesn’t plan to watch him play golf

“And this might sound kind of strange. What I’ll say is … I really, in all honesty, I really don’t care what Tiger does with golf. I think Tiger is, golf probably needs him to some degree but golf doesn’t need him, if you know what I mean, because there’s so many other incredibly talented great young players out there, probably a dozen of them, maybe even more, that are equal, if not way better than Tiger, and they can carry the baton of being the number one player in the world. So, I get a little bit perplexed about and disappointed about how some of these guys get pushed into the background by the attention Tiger gets. I hope he does well. If he doesn’t do well, it doesn’t bother me. If he does do well, it doesn’t bother me.”

3) He plays almost no golf these days

“I really don’t play a lot of golf. I played with my son in the father-son at the end of last year, had a blast with him. Played a little bit of golf preparing for that. But since then I have not touched a golf club.”

4) He doesn’t enjoy going to the range anymore

“To be honest with you I’m sick and tired of being on the driving range hitting thousands and thousands of golf balls. That bores me to death now. My body doesn’t like it to tell you the truth. Since I’ve stopped playing golf I wake up without any aches and pains and I can go to the gym on a regular basis without aches and pains. So my lifestyle is totally different now. My expectations, equally, is totally different.”

5) It took him a long time to get used to recreational golf

“But I’ve been in this mode now for quite a few years now so the first couple of years, yes. My body was not giving me what my brain was expecting. So you do have to make those mental adjustments. Look, there’s no difference than when you hit 40, you’re a good player or not a good player. Things start to perform differently. Your proprioception is different. Your body is different. I don’t care how good you are and how great physical shape you are. Your body after just pure wear and tear, it eventually does tend to break down a little bit. And when you’re under the heat of the battle and under the gun, when you have to execute the most precise shot, your body sometimes doesn’t deliver what you want.”

6) He’s a big Tom Brady fan

“I’m a big fan, big admirer of his. He gets out of it what he puts into it obviously…But he’s also a role model and a stimulator for his teammates. No question, when you go to play Brady and the Patriots, you’d better bring your A game because he’s already got his A game ready to go.”

7) He believes we’ll see 50-plus-year-old winners on Tour

“I said this categorically when Tom Watson nearly won at Turnberry in his 50s, when I nearly won at Royal Birkdale in my 50s….if you keep yourself physically in good shape, flexibility in good shape, as well as your swing playing, and your swing. Yeah, maybe the yips come in maybe they don’t, that depends on the individual, right? But at the end of the day, my simple answer is yes. I do believe that’s going to happen.”

8) The Shark logo has been vital to his post-golf success

“But I realized very early on in life too that every athlete, male or female, no matter what sports you play you’re a finite entity. You have a finite period of time to maximize your best performance for X number of years. And with golf, if you look at it historically, it’s almost like a 15 year cycle. I had my 15 year run. Every other player has really has had a 15 year run, plus or minus a few years.”

“So you know you have that definitive piece of time you got to work with and then what you do after that is understanding what you did in that time period. And then how do you take that and parlay it? I was lucky because I had a very recognizable logo. It wasn’t initials. It wasn’t anything like that. It was just a Great Shark logo. And that developed a lot of traction. So I learned marketing and branding very, very quickly and how advantageous it could be as you look into the future about building your businesses.”

9) He’s tried to turn on-course disappointments into positives

“We all … well I shouldn’t say we all. I should say the top players, the top sports men and women work to win. Right? And when we do win that’s what we expected ourselves to do because we push ourselves to that limit. But you look at all the great golfers of the past and especially Jack Nicklaus, it’s how you react to a loss is more important than how you react to a victory. And so, I learned that very, very early on. And I can’t control other people’s destiny. I can’t control what other people do on the golf course. So I can only do what I do. When I screw up, I use that as a very strong study point in understanding my weakness to make sure that I make a weakness a strength.”

10) Jordan Spieth is best suited to be the top player in the world

“I think that Jordan is probably the most balanced, with best equilibrium in the game. He’s probably, from what I’m seeing, completely in touch with the responsibilities of what the game of golf and the success in the game of golf is.”

11) His golf design is built on two pillars

“Two things: Begin with the end in mind and the least disturbance approach. I think we, the industry of golf course design industry, really did the game of golf a major disservice in the 80s and 90s when everybody was leveraged to the hilt, thought they had unlimited capital, and thought they could just go build these big golf courses with big amounts of money invested in with magnificent giant club houses which weren’t necessary. So, we were actually doing a total disservice to the industry because it was not sustainable.”

12) He’s still not happy about having essentially invented the WGC events and not getting credit

“I’ll always be a little bit salty about that because there’s a saying that I keep telling everybody, “slay the dreamer.” I came up with a pretty interesting concept where the players would be the part owners of their own tour or their own destiny and rewarded the riches if they performed on the highest level. And quite honestly, Michael, actually a friend of mine sent me an article, it was a column written, “Shark and Fox Plan to Take a Bite out of the PGA”. And this is written in 11/17/94 and I literally just got it last night. And I’m reading through this article and I’m going, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I was ahead of my time!” I really was ahead of my time.

So, it was very, very kind of like a reflective moment for me. I read it again this morning with a cup of coffee and I did sit back and, I’ll be brutally honest with you and your listeners, and did sit back and I did get a little bit angry because of the way I was portrayed, the way I was positioned.”

13) He was muzzled by the producer at Fox

“I’m not going to dig deep into this, I think there was just a disconnect between the producer and myself. I got on really well with the director and everybody else behind the scenes, some of my thought processes about what I wanted to talk about situations during the day, and it just didn’t pan out. And things that I wanted to say, somebody would be yelling in my ear, “Don’t say it, don’t say it!” So it became a very much a controlled environment where I really didn’t feel that comfortable.”

14) Preparation wasn’t the problem during his U.S. Open broadcast

“I was totally prepared so wherever this misleading information comes saying I wasn’t prepared, I still have copious notes and folders about my preparation with the golf course, with the players, with the set-up, with conditioning. I was totally prepared. So that’s an assumption that’s out there that is not true. So there’s a situation where you can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time.

15) He would do ESPN’s Body Issue

“Of course I’d do it. I think I like being fit. I think on my Instagram account I probably slipped a few images out there that created a bit of a stir…And I enjoy having myself feel good. And that’s not an egotistical thing, it’s just none of my, most of my life I’ve been very healthy fit guy and if somebody like ESPN wants to recognize that, yeah of course I would consider doing it.”

Don’t forget to listen to the full podcast here!

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Podcasts

TG2: “If you could only play one brand, what would it be?” (Part 2)

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“If you could only play one brand, what would it be?” Brian Knudson and Andrew Tursky debate their choices in part 2 of this podcast (click here in case you missed Part 1). Also, TG2 welcomes special guest and GolfWRX Forum Member Ed Settle to the show to discuss what clubs he has in the bag.

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

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Greg Norman on why he won’t watch Tiger Woods this week at the Genesis Open

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Greg Norman, Hall of Fame golfer and entrepreneur, tells us why he won’t watch the Genesis Open this week even if Tiger is in contention. He also discusses his ventures and adventures on and off the course, and shares the thing about the PGA Tour that still makes him angry.

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

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