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Opinion & Analysis

Tom Stickney: Tiger relaxed his way back into playing good golf

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Well, well, well. In the words of one of my favorite people, PGA Tour caddie Kip Henley, “Tiger ain’t done yet!” (Give him a follow on Twitter. You can thank me later). Kip has been on the Tiger train in the worst of times and it seems after this week that he might have been right all along. I have been a long-time Tiger fan and a big proponent of his quest for knowledge over the last few years, but as with anything, you can take it too far.

As I’ve always said, Tiger has the mental strength of ten Tour pros, but as we all know, he also has the body of a WWE Wrestler from an injury standpoint. Would the swings he has been trying to make actually work or was he getting too deep into mechanics and pushing his body into positions that he just could not achieve with his current physiology?

Could Tiger overcome all of this? Only time would tell, but after his performance at the Valspar Championship, it seems like he has stepped into a time machine and re-appeared as a new person with a new body — swinging his driver up to 129.2 mph.

How did this happen? Everyone is asking me and everyone is wondering. In my opinion, I have the answer and it’s one that is different than what you think. Tiger should send a big thank you to Sean Foley and Chris Como for giving him the right information that he could use to identify the swing that works and feels best for him. Now I know you are going to say, “What about Butch Harmon and Hank Haney?” Yes, they were instrumental in helping Tiger improve in the other stages of his career, but they did it with a different body than he has now. And I am not taking anything away from them, but it wasn’t the same Tiger as we see today.

Sean gave Tiger a more scientific way to understand the swing using TrackMan (with special thanks to James Leitz and his D-Plane model.) This is the information Tiger needed to practice more efficiently and more correctly work on the things that were plaguing his ball flight. Chris gave Tiger a better understanding of how the body and swing work as it pertains to the ground reaction forces and the moment of his center of gravity and pressure. It’s this information that helped supply him with more power and with less mechanical work physically. It’s the combination of these things that has put Tiger where he is now, but one thing had been missing…a clear mind on Tiger’s part.

Thus, the secret at the Valspar was using the information that these gentlemen supplied, but doing so subconsciously and just letting it happen. Like all golfers, Tiger was struggling from paralysis by over-analysis. He was hyper focused on the positions that he needed to put his body into and squashing any real “feel” and “flow” that could help him produce better swings — more relaxed swings — that produced more speed.

As indicated by his motion, whenever you get out of your own way you can swing in a way that makes the ball go a mile and it feels like you are hardly moving. This is precisely what happened to Tiger. Informational freedom coupled with a clear mind allowed Tiger to do what Tiger has always been best at: playing the game of golf, not focusing on positions and the golf swing. However, with the breakdown of his body, it was necessary for him to do so with Sean and Chris so he could get to this point he is in today.

The only problem was that Tiger couldn’t let Tiger relax about his mechanics and continued to hyper-focus on things he should have let go of a long time ago. Sometimes you just have to let it all go and just play. He’s practiced enough to put these things into his muscle memory bank, so it was just waiting to come out. When he relaxed, look what happened.

So, a note for all you golfers working on your swings and focusing too hard on your mechanics: It’s great to look at the inner-workings of your swing and focus on making changes, but remember to leave it on the range and just go play golf. It just might work for you like it has for Tiger!

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. 3PuttSometimes

    Apr 29, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Pff…. says the guy that wrote “ tiger is done for/finished” back in 2016.

    O geeze, give me a break Tom Stickney.

    It’s hard to take what you wrote in the closing paragraph/conclusion in this article about “tiger needs to be tiger and stop worrying about his swing and just play golf” seriously.

    Considering how you were ripping on him and about how his career as a pro golfer was done in your 2016 article.

    I’m not a super tiger fanboy, just a recent anti Tom Stickney aka “Jumping ship and riding bandwagoner”.

    I guess at the end of the day, the only thing you are fishing for is views l/clicks to your article. Sigh

  2. Sam Boulden

    Mar 13, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    Why should we pay any attention to your analysis when in this article: http://www.golfwrx.com/404384/tiger-woods-is-finished-as-a-professional-golfer/ you said he was done, and the way that he ran his own swing with bits and pieces from the coaches’ teaching was a pig part of the problem?

  3. nyguy

    Mar 13, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    I really got into watching golf around 2011. Saw the downfall of tiger. I really liked watching golf post scandal pre tiger comeback. Now it’s not fun… Its all tiger tiger tiger… I like tiger woods and wish him well, but my god… enough with everything Tiger…..

    • Acemandrake

      Mar 13, 2018 at 6:35 pm

      You are not alone.

      Good or bad, there are many for whom Golf = Tiger and Tiger = Golf. It’s their loss.

  4. John

    Mar 13, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    Tom, do you see Tiger employing more of a “trapping” motion at impact, which potentially permits him to squeeze out a bit more yardage? Seems like his driving iron was taking substantial divots, which is a bit different than Tiger of yesteryear.

  5. Ccshop

    Mar 13, 2018 at 11:13 am

    A flaming bag of poo is the only thing Tiger needs to give Sean Foley

    • James T

      Mar 13, 2018 at 7:30 pm

      Tiger could always sign up for Sean Foley’s late night TV ads of Golf Channel via Revolution Golf. I mean, only if he was missing the guy.

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Opinion & Analysis

How well do you really know the Teeing Ground rules? Here’s a refresher…

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There are a few things you need to know 18 times every round if you want to stay on the right side of the law, and some of them are quirky. They all surround the Teeing Ground, a very specific area defined by the Rules which is different from the larger (undefined) flat area upon which the tee-markers are placed and rotated.

One might think that putting a peg in the ground to start your hole is stupid-simple, but let’s reserve that judgment for a while. I recently had a discussion about this with a friend, and crudely sketched out some scenarios.  Please look at Illustration No. 1, and hold off on looking at Illustration No. 2 further below for the moment.

In the first illustration, you will find the depiction of two haphazardly-placed (square) tee-markers; five golf balls; and a representation of the depth of two club-lengths. Which of the balls has been placed in a position to legally start the play of the hole?

Decide, then read on.

While it may seem simple, irregularly shaped tee-markers and tee-markers which “aim” you in an off direction relative to the fairway actually require careful analysis in order to accurately determine where the Teeing Ground begins and ends. Here is the explicit Definition:

The “teeing ground” is the starting place for the hole to be played. It is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and the sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers. A ball is outside the teeing ground when all of it lies outside the teeing ground.

When square tee-markers are positioned in such a way that their sides are not parallel to each other, the precise rectangular area of the Teeing Ground can have a surprising outline. And the fact that a ball may be partially outside the Teeing Ground and still considered technically within it can add to the possible confusion.  

Moving on to reviewing Illustration No. 2, you’ll see the rectangle of the Teeing Ground superimposed over the haphazardly placed tee-markers per the Definition. Ball A, C, and D are partially within the Teeing Ground and therefore legal to play, and Ball B and E are completely outside of it. So if you’re one of those players who wants to get every last inch closer to the hole when you tee it up (or on occasion want to be almost two full club-lengths away from the front of the Teeing Ground) take heed!

The exact place the tee-markers are positioned takes on critical importance in another way, too. Rule 11-2 forbids you from moving the tee-markers to assist you before you make your first stroke from the Teeing Ground. So unless you have already made a stroke (in which case the tee-markers have become movable obstructions which you may temporarily move) don’t intentionally move them — even to “straighten” them for groups behind you. Decision 11-2/2 gives you the fairly complicated details on when you may or may not touch them without penalty, but it’s way easier to just remember to leave them alone!

In wild contrast to the prohibitions against changing the position of the tee-markers, the Rules are downright liberal in terms of what you may do to the surface of the Teeing Ground before you play. While Rule 1-2 generally prohibits you from altering physical conditions with the intent of affecting the play of a hole, Rule 11-1 lets you go hog-wild in changing the surface of this particular area. You’re free to create or eliminate any irregularity of surface you wish: stamp on the ground with your foot, create a divot hole or tuft of turf with your club, pull out a hunk of grass or a weed — have at it if you’re so moved. In addition, Rule 13-2 allows you to remove dew, frost or water from the Teeing Ground. In all cases, make sure you’re doing this landscaping only to the ground within the two club-length deep official Teeing Ground. Do it to the surrounding area and you might be in trouble. (In particular, note that Decision 13-2/14 makes it clear that you may not break a branch off a tree near the Teeing Ground that might interfere with your swing.)

If you’ve got the nerve, there’s a way to sort of expand the Teeing Ground for yourself: Rule 11-1 assures us that a player’s stance may be outside the Teeing Ground when he or she plays a ball from within it. So if you’re looking to get a better angle to a dogleg fairway or to avoid some overhanging branches out there, feel free to tee it up anywhere you wish between the tee-markers and deal with your stance afterward. Just be sure your concentration skills allow you to ignore that tee-marker which may now be between your toe and the ball!

Finally, what do you do if you inadvertently tee off outside the Teeing Ground? Rule 11-4 covers this, and it’s dramatically different in Match Play vs. Stroke Play. In Match, you are fine unless your opponent immediately requires you to cancel your stroke and start again. There is no penalty in either case (other than the possible misfortune of having to cancel a good shot). In Stroke, teeing off outside the Teeing Ground is a critical mistake: You get a 2-stroke penalty for having teed off from an incorrect location and you must re-tee correctly and start again before you tee off on the next hole (or before you leave the 18th green without declaring your intention to re-play) or else you’ll be disqualified from the competition.

In either Match or Stroke Play, you may warn your opponent or fellow-competitor that he or she is about to play from outside the Teeing Ground. If you have the occasion, it’s a nice thing to do. Take care, play well!

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: David Edel explains the true bounce equation that no one talks about

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An honest chat with club maker David Edel on everything from the 3 types of wedge body types, a bounce equation, the misconceptions of bounce, and his in-depth fitting process.

2:45 — How it started
4:55 — How his fitting methods came to be
11:40 — Bounce and the misconceptions around it
13:30 — The 3 basic types of golfers
16:20 — The true bounce equation that no one talks about
26:00 — Finally getting the message out to the masses
29:40 — Whats next for Edel
32:45 — The secret vault
35:45 — Advice to the club makers coming up
39:40 — The companies that excite him today

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

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Opinion & Analysis

13 Revealing Photos from an AJGA golf event

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The American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) is a breeding ground for college golfers; according to its mission statement, the AJGA is a “nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf.” Some of the best juniors in the country/world collect at AJGA golf events to compete, hone their competitive skills, and also to showcase their talents to college recruiters who use AJGA scores, finishes and performances to evaluate prospective student-athletes. They also pay a lot of money to play in these events — this particular 54-hole event cost $295 entry fee (plus any travel, lodging and practice rounds).

Name a player on the PGA Tour, and chances are he played in AJGA events as a junior… Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, whoever you can think of really. Even yours truly, the GolfWRX Editor, once upon a time played in AJGA events. But that was over 10 years ago now, and I wanted to revisit an AJGA event to see how things have changed.

So, recently, I went to the AJGA Junior at Forest Lake presented by Tom Holzer Ford in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan to cover the event. Below are my takeaways.

Listen to the Two Guys Talking Golf podcast for more of my opinions and takeaways!

1) Treated like Tour players

Each of the players are given individual lockers with their names on them for the week. I’ve always been a change-the-shoes-in-the-parking-lot kind of guy myself, but this is a nice touch.

2) It’s official

Like most professional events, the AJGA events have tents, waters, granola bars, tees, scorecards and pencils on the first tee. And they announce your name/hometown, which is always intimidating.

3) Sponsors

As a popular junior golf organization, the AJGA attracts a number of big-name sponsors.

But the most important sponsor is Care for the Course. These kids hit pretty much every green, so repairing ball marks on the green is crucial.

4) College Coaches do show up

During the first round of a random AJGA event in Michigan, there were a number of college coaches on site, representing DI, DII and DIII colleges. While that does mean added pressure for the 12-18 year old kids, it also means that playing well in these events could very well land you a scholarship. After talking with a few of the college coaches, however, it’s often positive body language even after a double bogey that can really impress coaches. Juniors, keep that one in mind.

5) Push carts, or carry bags?

By my estimation, about 70 percent of the competitors used pull carts. Back in my days of AJGA golf, it was rare to find 1 or 2 juniors using push carts. Why the change? Well, it seems kids have smartened up. Speaking with a few competitors, it seems they prefer push carts over carry bags because it adds additional space for water bottles, scorecards, weather gear, umbrellas, and it’s easier on your body during long rounds.

6) Yea, these kids are good

16-year-old Maxwell Moldovan shot a 9-under 62 (and course record) in the first round of the event. He made 9 birdies against 9 pars. Speaking with him after the round, he seemed unfazed by the 62, instead enjoying his position and plotting his first AJGA victory. These kids just have no fear. (Also, live scoring is awesome).

The new course record holder was gaming a mixed iron set of Titleist CBs and MBs (as shown above), and was using custom Titleist SM7 wedges stamped with “M2,” surely a play on his initials. And yes, he’s pro-push cart.

7) The most nerve-racking moment in the round

Have you ever shot a great round in a tournament, then been nervous you’d make a stupid scoring mistake and get DQ’d, so you go over your round multiple times to confirm the scores? I know I can’t be alone.

8) Tough track

The quirky, par-71 golf course measured just 6,283 yards on the scorecard — AJGA employees estimate most events are played between 6,800 and 7,200 yards — but many of the holes seemed to either take driver out of the players’ hands (although they typically hit driver anyway), or at least made hitting driver very difficult.

Plus, they had pins tucked pretty good. After the round, participants estimated the greens were running at about a 12 on the stimp, and one player said “the greens were some of the hardest I’ve putted on all summer.”

Also, painted dirt inside the cups goes a long way to making the tournament feel more official. I thought they painted cups white so the TV cameras could better see where the hole is, and as far as I know this AJGA event wasn’t televised, but hey, it looks cool.

9) Keeping up

The AJGA keeps players moving, timing them on a number of holes at “timing stations,” and handing out warnings for slow play. Enough warnings and the group gets reprimanded with a penalty stroke. There’s not nearly as much leeway out here as on the PGA Tour… they do actually hand out penalty strokes, and the participants seemed well aware of that.

10) Cross-hand putting grips

Everyone out there was using a cross-handed putting grip. Literally, everyone I saw was putting cross-handed.

11) Rules officials

Like any big tournament, rules officials swarm the course. This kid hooked his tee shot up against an outhouse, and resolved the situation with a volunteer and a rules official. As soon as he hit his shot, he asked to make sure “Are we still on pace?” That’s the timing stations doing their jobs.

12) Parents

Parents can be seen all over the course, following their son/daughter, grinding over each shot just as hard or harder than the players themselves.

“I’m holding up OK, but my husband might have a heart attack,” one mother of a first-time AJGA participant told me. The pressure is real out there for everyone involved.

13) And that’s all she wrote

Check out more photos from the AJGA event here

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