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Opinion & Analysis

Tiger shouldn’t play Rory in Ryder Cup Singles Matches

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By John Wunder

GolfWRX Contributor

On Aug. 15, 1999 the world was witness to what potentially could have been one of the most exciting rivalries in golf history. It had all the makings of Nicklaus vs. Palmer or Hogan vs Snead. As a fan I feel somewhat cheated that it has yet to come to fruition but with clever pairings and a touch of luck we will have our chance to rekindle this soap opera.

Down the stretch at the PGA in 1999 held at Medinah. Tiger Woods battled Sergio Garcia shot for shot, it was an epic afternoon and as we all watched with bated breath Tiger finished just a nose ahead. I still remember his expression after he holed the final putt, it was one of the only times I can remember that I’ve seen Tiger truly relieved… and exhausted. The wide-eyed Garcia had pushed him to the brink.

Sergio, although playing in the group ahead that Sunday, managed to isolate himself and Tiger from the rest of the field and they both provided blow after blow including a shot from the trunk of a tree (which has since been cut down) that will go down as one of the greats.

So much has been made of Sergio’s heroics from the root of that tree, but that wasn’t the shot that lit the fire. It was the exchange at Nos. 12 and 13 that got it going. After Tiger had bogeyed No. 12 and walked on to the 13th tee he became audience to Garcia holing his 15 footer for birdie and than on cue pointing back up at the tee to where Tiger was standing. It was a challenge. That moment represented exactly what I believe Sergio envisioned for the rest of his career. He was going to be the one that challenged Tiger in the Majors — it was just going to be the two of them like Rocky and Apollo until one of them decided to stop.

As exciting as that would have been, we all know how the rest of the story plays out. Tiger went on to… well, he was Tiger Woods (enough said). And Sergio gave us flashes of brilliance, immaturity, heartbreak, confusion and even a little anger. Besides the random skins game or battle at Big Horn we never got a full taste of what could have been between these two.

I don’t think Sergio ever allowed himself to regulate his emotions. He, like his mentor Seve Ballesteros, plays with his heart on his sleeve. As time went on and Tiger continued to win, we saw Sergio’s fire dwindle. In his early 20s immaturity cost him a lot of big tournaments and in the 2002 U.S. Open his resentment for Tiger went on full display. He verbally expressed his opinion of favorable tee times to Tiger as an injustice by the USGA and favoritism. That’s when the true separation of these two players really occurred. Sergio wasn’t the wiry kid having fun anymore. He was just another player trying to figure out how to keep up with the juggernaut Woods.

Fast forward to this week at the Ryder Cup and the scene of their first face-off. Both men having been humbled by life and the game but who still have that chip on their shoulders that all the great ones have.

As a golf fan I feel if these two were to square off on Sunday for the Ryder Cup it would provide us with probably the most electrifying golf the sport has ever seen. Although their bodies of work aren’t exactly apples to apples, there is still unfinished business, especially for Garcia. I realize he won the Wyndham Championship this year, but I don’t think we have seen him in full flight. The grand performance is what drives him. The roar of the crowd or the act of silencing them. He hasn’t had his Madison Square Garden moment yet.

If the golf gods allow, Sunday will be the day. I know deep down that this matchup would fuel Tiger as well. These two had a relationship much like Rory and Tiger do now, but that changed. Success or lack there of will do that to a relationship.

Woods seems to harbor feelings for any naysayers he has ever had. Ask Stephen Ames or Rory Sabbatini, it hasn’t ended so well. There is something different about his relationship with Sergio, an unspoken flame that burns. Almost like Manny Pacquio and Floyd Mayweather, these two have more or less tip toed around each other for a decade. Now that life has balanced them both out and they seem to be standing flat footed on the planet, the golf can do all the talking. No resumes, no money, no FedExCup points. Just a Tiger and a Bull locked in a ring going at each other with everything they have. One player wanting to prove that he’s back and the other to prove that his best is still yet to come.

I understand that to a great majority a Tiger v. Rory match would be the one to hope for, but I disagree. It’s too early in McIlroy’s career for that. It’s too clean. That battle we can save for Augusta. Since it’s the Ryder Cup, there is a blood, sweat and tears aspect to this thing. Rory hasn’t had enough dirt kicked in his face, nor enough disappointment. He will get his chance soon enough.

The game needs this match as a reminder of just how beautifully volatile this relationship is. How many Ryder Cups have gone by with us just missing a true Tiger moment. His play in the Cup has been by his standards lack luster. I can’t recall a moment where the crowd erupted after a long putt and we got a glimpse of a Tiger fist pump. That can all change this week. It’s his turf he’s defending — he’s 2-0 at Medinah.

On the flip side, Sergio has represented his true form at the Ryder Cup. Watch past highlights of him as a player or as an assistant. It’s pure love of country and competition. It has not only been his greatest stage but the one thing that he can hang over Tiger’s head. Sergio has the ability to push Tiger on the course, physically and emotionally. It’s what he was born to do, that’s the essence of his game. He had a great teacher in Ballesteros.

Woods and Garcia are well aware of the magnitude of this potential face-off. Jose Marie Olazabel knows it and Captain Love is well aware I’m sure. The tension would be palpable.

Its time for Tiger vs. Sergio II. The rematch. It’s the perfect location, the perfect moment.

Trust me… this one you will never forget. It’s personal.

Click here for more conversation 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. obmoc67

    Sep 28, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    great article, never thought about it.

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Opinion & Analysis

More Distance Off the Tee (Part 1 of 3): Upper Body Training

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If you read my previous story, Tour Pro’s Revealed: 3 Tests to See How You Stack Up, you are well aware of the fact that improving your upper body power is one of three sure ways to increase your distance off the tee. If you have not, I strongly suggest you check it out to gain some context about what is to follow and what is critical for your golf game.

Through our testing and the testing done of many of the industry leaders in golf performance, we have found that the ability of golfers to generate “push power” from their upper body is critical to maximize efficiency and speed in the swing. The way that you can test your power is simple. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Keeping your back on the chair, chest pass with both hands a 6-pound medicine ball as far as you can. When you compare this to your vertical jump as described in More Distance Off the Tee (Part 2 of 3): Lower Body Training Plan, the number in feet you threw the ball should be relatively close to your jump in inches.

If you threw the ball and it went 5 feet, you have an upper body power problem. If you threw the ball 25 feet and jumped only 14 inches, your upper body is not the problem — you probably need to focus on your lower body. It’s not rocket science once you understand what you are looking for. What can be challenging is knowing how to improve your power once you identify a problem. That is where the rest of this article comes in. What I am going to outline below are three of the most common upper body power exercises that we use with our amateur, senior and professional golfers.

The key with any power training exercise is to make sure you are as rested as possible between sets so that you can be as explosive as possible for the repetitions. Try not to do more than 6 repetitions in a set to assure that each one is as fast and explosive as possible.

Med Ball Chest Pass on Wall

This is one of the most basic exercises there is for developing upper body push power. Make sure your feet are about shoulder-width apart and don’t be afraid to use your legs to help maximize the punishment you deliver to against the wall!

Med Ball Wall Ball

Watching the video, you may be scratching you head and wondering why this is in the upper body power article when clearly the athlete is using his legs. The reason is that in the golf swing, power starts with the legs.

Med Ball Sky Chest Throws

This one is simple. Laying on your back, all you need to do is push the ball up as high as you can, catch it on the way down and the explode it back up into the air as high as you can. If you incorporate this exercise into your routine even once a week, you will see huge gains in your ability to swing faster if this was a problem area for you.

That being said, power creation requires not only speed but also strength development. It is also important that you have a solid strength program to increase your ability to generate more force. While this is beyond the scope of this article, finding yourself a solid golf fitness expert will help you create your ideal program.

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Podcasts

GolfWRX Forum Member dpb5031 talks about the TaylorMade Twist Face Experience

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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

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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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