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Opinion & Analysis

Spartans v. Robots: Tiger and Rory’s advantage



By John Wunder

GolfWRX Contributor

It’s the year 2000 and I am in Palm Desert, Calif. It’s 7:30 a.m. and at this point I had already ran 3 miles, worked out and practiced my short game. Now it’s range time and I’m working on whatever David Leadbetter model swing I’m copying at the moment.

It’s a struggle. I never was proficient in angles and to be honest never really took direction that well, but it’s the Tiger era and with the run he’s been on for the last 12 months we were ALL trying to become the machine he was. But what we all became were robots.

Now that Rory McIlroy has stepped up as the person who we will depend on to carry golf for the foreseeable future, it’s important to understand what his advantage is over most everyone (Eldrick included).

Rory is the first player beyond Woods in the last 15 years that truly plays “Spartan” golf. He’s the best combination of heart and talent we have in the game. He has no fear, no doubt, no second-guessing or even an ego to get in the way. He feels the game, as one should.

Even when he melted down at Augusta in 2011, he still tallied forth knowing that he would have many more cracks at redemption. Like a true Spartan, having no fear of losing gives you the greatest advantage. When a player allows himself to take his hands off the steering wheel, it frees that player up to evolve while maintaining his gifts.

Fred Couples had this down to his core, and still does. People argue that he had a balky putter, but I disagree. His biggest problem was his back. Couples has said that when he was healthy he was free to let it rip. He didn’t even need a yardage — his instincts and feel just took over.

When the Tiger era began it was hard to deny that if you did what he did your best golf was right around the corner. We thought it was possible to perfect each aspect of our games and in essence control how we played. What we forgot was that Tiger at that time had what Rory now possesses. He understood the concept of tomorrow and trusted that it wasn’t the club getting stuck behind him or a few missed 3 footers that would keep him from getting what he wanted. It was his ability wake up the next day knowing that his talents were ingrained and ultimately the ball would find the hole (quickly, as we would learn).

Those that became robots are numerous, but I will use Charles Howell as an example. CH3 still happens to be one of my favorite players to follow, because what’s not to like? He crushes it, loves every aspect of the game and you would be hard pressed to find a better soul in the game. But what we forget is that as a junior Howell played with just as much feel and instinct as anyone.

I recall Johnny Miller saying during the 1996 U.S. Amateur that Howell had played against his son Andy in a tournament and that he was “as good a putter as he had ever seen.” And it was true, he was a young Watson with the putter. No fear at all. Even when he turned pro he still had that instinct throughout his bag. But Howell chased Tiger too hard and became a Robot — there was too much data in his computer.

I’m just a part of the peanut gallery and that I will never truly understand the process of playing at that level, but hey, I’m a fan. The group that chased Tiger around weren’t improving themselves by doing what he did, but only playing into his hands. Howell has many good years ahead of him and I reckon with a little nostalgia and perhaps a recon mission to find his old gauzed up Ping B-60 he will fulfill his destiny of putting on a Green Jacket.

Take a hard look at who used to get the best of Tiger or at least challenge him — Fiori, May, a young untamed Garcia, Beem, Furyk, Cabrera. All grass roots homemade players who trusted only their instincts. In golf, a robot will never prevail over a Spartan. Sure, some of the names mentioned had only flashes of greatness, but for those moments in time it wasn’t perfect golf they played to compete with him — it was the simple fact that they allowed themselves to play the best golf of their lives. The legends allow that everyday.

Now, back to Rory and today’s new model. Look at a leaderboard today and see if you can consistently find any Robots. Not Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Jason Dufner, or Keegan Bradley. Graeme McDowell is another great example of the new Spartan golfer. He’s a throwback to the days when great shots were a creation, not a manufactured item.

My point is that there is no future in denying your instincts, especially in golf. Mickelson has tweaked quite a bit but his instincts have never changed. Phil trusts that in battle, his instincts will take over and he has the knowledge to allow that to happen. Of course disasters happen, but in golf mistakes are made and Phil knows it’s ok. Tomorrow is a new day.

I hope that Rory continues to play with the instinct and the trust that he already has. That’s all he needs to dominate. The other new Spartans will battle and I’ll be honest, winning 10-plus majors for himd may be much tougher than it was for Tiger. He’s not out battling Robots like Tiger was, he’s fighting other like minded Spartans who go to war with the tools that they have depended on since they started.

As for Tiger, it’s obvious that the events of the past few years mentally have affected his game and we’ll see if he’ll remain a Robot with information analysis. Ever seen Top Gun? The story of Cougar says it all.

“I’m holding on too tight… I’ve lost the edge.”

Trust me when I say that we are closer to the glory days of Jack, Arnie and Gary than ever before. Prepare for a wild ride.

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

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John Wunder was born in Seattle, Wash., and grew up playing at Rainier G&CC. He moved to Southern California when he had the rare opportunity of working in the Anaheim Angels clubhouse and has been living in Cali. ever since. He has a severe passion/addiction for the game and has been a member of GolfWRX since 2005. He now works as the Director of Development and Production for The Coalition Group in Los Angeles, Calif.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Chris C

    Nov 21, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Great article. Applicable to (obviously) many other fields. In 2012, politics particularly comes to mind.

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GolfWRX Forum Member dpb5031 talks about the TaylorMade Twist Face Experience



Forum member dpb5031 (aka Dewey) joins TG2 to talk about his Twist Face Experience at The Kingdom. Recently, him and 6 other GolfWRX Members went to TaylorMade HQ to get fit for new M3 and M4 drivers. Does Twist Face work? Dewey provides his answer.

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

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Opinion & Analysis

Inside the Ropes: 5 things you didn’t know about playing on the PGA Tour



Golf finds a way to take a hold on you… whether you become entranced by the skill of the world’s best professionals, fall in love with the feeling and beauty of a well-executed shot, or simply enjoy getting outside and having fun — the game is addictive.

I started playing at the age of 4 and began watching the pros on TV dreaming what it would be like to play golf on the PGA Tour. When I earned my PGA Tour status for the 2014 season, that dream became a reality. And like anything, it’s not until I actually experienced that life did I have any idea what it entailed.

For those of you who are curious what it’s like to be on the PGA Tour, here are 5 things to describe it.

1) The Culture

Traveling the world to various cities can be fun, and it’s an underrated part of the Tour lifestyle; you get to see new landscapes and taste the cuisines that define different regions across the country and the world. Unlike some other professional sports, where players stay in one place for maybe a night or two, we get to stay in places for a week or more, which allows for plenty of time away from the course to see the sights and get a feel for what the cities and their cultures offer.

2) The Show

The setup and time that goes into planning an event — the grandstands, concession stands, volunteers, and the whole network that makes these tournaments run — is beyond impressive. We see the finished product at the event in the epicenter of it all, but the planning goes on behind the scenes all year. When it’s game time and the golf ball gets teed up, it’s time for us players to block all of that out, but we certainly appreciate all of the hard work that goes into putting on an event. It may feel like being in a circus at times, but performing in the show is a thrill.

3) The People

The game of golf in general brings people together, but especially so on the Tour. Thousands and thousands of fans come to watch the golf action and enjoy the festivities. The Pro-Ams are a great way for the fans to get an up-close look at what goes on at a Tour event, and they’re also a great way for us pros to interact with fans and maybe provide some helpful swing tips, too. In my opinion, one of the best events of the year is the Pebble Beach Pro-Am — a gathering of pro golfers, athletes, musicians, actors and other celebrities. It’s a testament to how the game can bring people together from different walks of life.

4) Inside the Ropes

The Tour is almost like a private school of sorts. It’s a select group of a couple hundred guys traveling around playing these events. The jocks, the nerds, the geeks, the loners; you see a little of everything. As much as there’s a sociable aspect to traveling on Tour and getting to know these people, it’s a dog-eat-dog world where everyone is playing for their livelihood and playing privileges.

5) The “Pressure”

A season-long race can come down to a single shot making the difference — for some it’s between winning and losing a tournament, and others it’s between keeping and losing your card. The cameras, the grandstands, the noise… it can all be quite distracting. The idea is to block all of that out and pretend you’re playing like a kid, focusing with pure imagination for the shot. All the extra attention can help heighten the focus further, adding inspiration to “give the people what they want” and hit even better golf shots.

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Ping Engineer Paul Wood explains how the G400 Max driver is so forgiving



Paul Wood, VP of Engineering at Ping, joins our 19th Hole to discuss the new G400 Max driver, which the company calls the “straightest driver ever.” Also, listen for a special discount code on a new laser rangefinder.

Listen to this episode on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes.

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19th Hole