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Opinion & Analysis

A master professional’s thoughts on Tiger’s comeback



Ever since Tiger Woods was a little boy, he has excelled at golf. His junior, amateur and collegiate career is the stuff of legends. The record speaks for itself. Consider this one alone: from 1991-1996, Tiger Woods was 36-0 in all USGA amateur events. He was the ultimate prodigy. Golf came easy to Tiger and at every age, in every level of competition, he was the best by any measure. Winning was all Tiger ever knew. “Second is the first loser” he was quick to remind us. And sure enough, he was rarely second. And this trend continued right into the first 12 years of his professional career.

Fast forward to the 42-year-old professional attempting a comeback on the PGA Tour. We have the obvious differences: older, injured, battle worn, and some say distracted; yet at times, still capable of producing a very high level of golf. Good enough to win again? Who knows, but one thing seems clear; probably not capable of dominating again, not capable of producing anything like what we all became accustomed to for so long. We took his greatness for granted in a sense, and it’s quite possible that Tiger did, too. According to Hank Haney, Tiger even considered walking away from professional golf for a more “exciting” career in the military. He got “bored” being on top of the golf mountain and considered new mountains to climb.

And therein may be the issue with the comeback. This might be the first time that golf is anything resembling difficult for Tiger Woods. And clearly, it is the very first time he cannot beat the competition almost at will. If that seems unusual to us, one can only imagine what it must be like to Woods. At the ripe golfing age of 42, the greatest winner the sport has ever known no longer wins. At times, he does not even seem competitive.

The real questions to be answered about his comeback is this: How long can Tiger accept not winning, not dominating? How much inner drive does he still have to get back to the top? Or near it. How long can he actually tolerate golf being a struggle? Can he accept being a middle of the pack PGA Tour pro? Does he have the level of self-belief he once had, or has all this new adversity diminished it to an “also ran”level? We don’t know, and he doesn’t know because this situation is new to everyone.

Let’s face it, Tiger has nothing left to prove and he is wealthy beyond imagination. One would have to assume that getting back to the top might be a battle Tiger may ultimately not be willing to fight. Having always succeeded as he did, he very likely underestimated this comeback. Who could blame him for assuming he’d win again just by showing up? Now halfway through the comeback season, he has come to the realization that there is a very long way to go, a huge mountain to scale. Who knows what he’ll decide to do?

I’m writing this on the day he tried a new putter in competition. Changing a golf club, THE golf club, that has won more than 100 events worldwide indicates a lack of confidence as much as a need for more modern equipment. If the putting stroke has changed and the new putter is more adapted to the new stroke, that is understandable. But nobody in his camp has mentioned anything changing about the putting stroke. So why the need for a new club?

In any case, all the analyses of his comeback seem to deal with his poor putting, erratic driving, proximity to hole etc., and I’m not saying it isn’t these things. I’m merely suggesting that those struggles are not in the swing or of the physical nature. Possibly, the cause of those unusual errors starts before he even draws it back.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at



  1. Dave r

    Jul 4, 2018 at 7:27 pm


  2. Dennis

    Jul 4, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    First of all, no one is a bigger fan of or has any more respect for what Tiger has done for professional golf than I. This article says that perhaps for the first time, the inner self belief that he possessed to a greater degree than any player ever, he does not currently have. Simply that nothing more. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and play with Tiger, and can tell you first hand he’s the consummate professional and all around good dude. I hope his comeback is successful and breaks every record on the books, because he is the best I’ve ever seen. To do that he’ll need to get back to thinking the way he did when he was winning.

    If you differ my with my opinion, please feel free to do so. I’d love to hear anyone else’s opinion, but to attack me personally says absolutely nothing on the subject.

  3. Mario

    Jul 4, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    After Dennis gives a couple lessons he likes to come into the men’s locker room at Southpointe Golf Club and eat all of the candy that Mike purchases with his own money and then leave the wrappers all over the place.

    This article doesn’t surprise me.

  4. Ed Young

    Jul 4, 2018 at 11:30 am

    I would have expected more from someone in your position. Your comments & thoughts are grossly premature. The guy is 6 months into his comeback from what would have been a career ending situation for most…and he’s already had a great year by most tour pros standards.

    Yes, Tiger is far from most tour pro’s and has set the bar so high, people like yourself lose sight of what this guy has been through the last few years. The fact that he’s even playing is incredible never mind knocking on the door of winning again. Which, he no doubt will. It’s not a matter of if…it’s when.

  5. moses

    Jul 4, 2018 at 10:03 am

    This has got to be an all time low. Congrats on the 1% approval rating.

  6. Andrew Cooper

    Jul 4, 2018 at 4:35 am

    Excellent article Dennis. Whether Woods can return to the top will depend on more than just his swing and putting stroke and stats, it will be a matter of whether or not he has the strength and energy, physically and mentally, to grind his way all the way back. At 42, and with all he’s accomplished and been through, he’s not going to be content being an also ran.

  7. Jack

    Jul 4, 2018 at 3:25 am

    It’s not like Tiger is playing like a regular tour pro. He’s actually playing very well. He’s up to OWGR 67 now. Most guys would be ecstatic a few tournaments in coming for OWGR 1000+ when he first came back. Keep going, he will probably win a tournament here and there and that would be a solid 2018 come back for him. Then in 2019 people would start expecting more again.

    The criticism on Tiger not changing his putting stroke? I don’t know if he did, but the master pro didn’t even bother to look at any film to check. Pro’s change putters just like amateurs do. It’s to get a new putting feel and to putt better.

  8. Kool Aid

    Jul 4, 2018 at 1:59 am

    Feel sorry for the Author, don’t quit your day job, whatever that is

  9. 8thehardway

    Jul 3, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    “And therein may be the issue with the comeback. This might be the first time that golf is anything resembling difficult for Tiger Woods.”

    This sentence illustrates a major difference between facile observation and actual insight… had you compared his current struggles with those of one of your students there might have been something instructive to impart; don’t ignore what it is to be human, striving and struggling – regardless of outcome, that’s the song of us.

  10. CrashTestDummy

    Jul 3, 2018 at 6:21 pm

    Tiger definitely has the game to win again. He has been contending in quite a few tournaments of late while beating a lot of top 20 players in the fields while he has some obvious flaws in his game (putting issues and ball striking mainly off the tee with a few errant shots). If he gets stuff cleaned up, he will be contending a lot.

    The putter switch is just testing stuff for the British. If he is sinking a ton of putts with the new putter, you may see it at the British. However, sometimes you need to mix things up to get a different feel in order to reinforce what is the putter you really like.

  11. Deejaymn

    Jul 3, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    A healthy season is a success, so far, check. Then a win is gravy on top this year. He’s obviously getting there, he had as many birdies this week as the eventual winner. Has to clean up the mistakes but that takes more rounds and cleaning up his putting, specially from 10 feet and in. But if he’s healthy it’s a success. Enjoy the climb, crab in a bucket.

  12. dat

    Jul 3, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    In to the trash this goes.

  13. Phil D. Snuts

    Jul 3, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    You know as a kid I wondered what it was like to watch Babe Ruth play baseball. So let’s stop all the pre-toldyaso arguments, sit back, and watch what could be the greatest come back in golf maybe even sports history. We can enjoy the expert analysis from has been, never was and never will he’s later.

    • K

      Jul 3, 2018 at 9:27 pm

      You CANNOT judge a person before they are done. Heck from most the interviews ive seen Tiger seems to mostly just be having fun playing with the guys.Yea he shows frustration sometimes but thats what this game does to all of us. Hes had 3 top 5 finishes and is currently 47th on FedEx list. Not too bad considering about a year ago he couldnt even put a full swing on a club.

      • Chuck Barkley

        Jul 4, 2018 at 2:37 am

        Ok, if we are NOT to JUDGE a person, especially golfers before they are done, WHY are we HALL OF FAMING them before they are DONE? DUMBEST thing I have EVER heard of!!

    • Jim Mcfarlane

      Jul 5, 2018 at 6:13 pm

      I believe we’ve seen the greatest comeback already. Doctors said Ben Hogan would not walk after his accident with a bus and he won Eleven times including six majors!

  14. kevin

    Jul 3, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    You know what’s worse that a shank?….. This article

  15. Sean

    Jul 3, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    You contradict yourself. The substance behind this article is nothing but fluff gut opinions.

  16. orangeology

    Jul 3, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    tell this master professional sir to keep on what he’s been the master like those achievements in his intro that is nearly longer than the article. and pls tell him to stop writing a pointless junk and stop wasting ppl’s time. please. like-shank ratio will tell.

    • Phil D. Snuts

      Jul 3, 2018 at 2:28 pm

      Master huckster if you ask me. Sounds like a range pro I know that won’t give lessons until someone buys their latest and greatest $2,500 set of last years painted clubs. Yeah I know a master pro with merchandiser of the year cred.

  17. Joe

    Jul 3, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    Its almost as if this guy isn’t watching Tiger at all. He is playing top ten golf only 10 tournaments into his comeback- making cuts and showing up on leaderboards. He’s obviously good enough to win again you moron. Laziest article I’ve seen on here in a while.

  18. Lefty

    Jul 3, 2018 at 12:28 pm

    The narrative on Tiger is ever-changing. A few months ago he was never coming back. Shortly into his return – when will he win again? Fast forward a few more tournaments and some great play… he will never be the same.

    Tiger is great. He has been great. He will be great. His iron and wedge play is fantastic. The PGA has talent has changed over the last few years. There are a ton of really good players capable of winning each week. Never before has the PGA had this many great players. It is going to be tough for him to win, but does he not have the talent to do so? How can anyone say that? His swing speed is off the charts, his short game is tremendous, his iron/wedge play is top notch.

    He will win again and once he wins the first time the flood gates will open for more wins. Will he win another major? Who knows… but him coming back to golf is a great thing for the sport.

    This piece is pure garbage.

  19. s

    Jul 3, 2018 at 11:55 am

    Articles like this are nothing more than a stroke of the ego in case Tiger doesn’t win again. That way the author can tell all his buddies “I told you so”.

  20. moses

    Jul 3, 2018 at 11:54 am

    In poker lingo this article is a DONK move.

  21. RP

    Jul 3, 2018 at 11:15 am

    This will probably be the article with the biggest shank to likes ratio. Amazing how some people get paid to write things like this. Smh

    • Carson Henry

      Jul 3, 2018 at 11:32 am

      My thoughts exactly…We are half a season into his return and people are wondering if he will ever compete again. Our expectations speak to how great he actually was, we expect him to win. Four back surgeries is something that takes adjusting to, in the swing AND routine. He has to start warming up HOURS before he used to, and with early start time on some days that can take its toll. Tiger can and will dominate again, he is just learning his new body and what its limits are. Give the man more than 6 months geeze.

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The Gear Dive: Discussing the drivers of 2020 with Bryan LaRoche



In this episode of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with his good buddy Bryan LaRoche. They chat on life and do a deep dive into the drivers of 2020.

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: The 5 indisputable rules of bunker play



I received a particularly interesting question this week from Art S., who said he has read all the tips about how to hit different sand shots, from different sand conditions, but it would be helpful to know why. Specifically, here’s what Art had to say:

“I recently found myself in a few sand traps in multiple lies and multiple degrees of wetness. I tried remembering all of the “rules” of how to stand, how much to open my club, how much weight to shift forward or back, etc. based on the Golf Channel but was hoping that you might be able to do a blog on the ‘why’ of sand play so that we can understand it rather than memorizing what to do. Is there any way you can discuss what the club is doing and why you open the club, open your stance, what you’re aiming for when you open up, and any other tips?”

Well, Art, you asked a very good question, so let’s try to cover the basics of sand play–the “geometry and physics” at work in the bunkers–and see if we can make all of this more clear for you.

First of all, I think bunkers are among the toughest of places to find your ball. We see the tour players hit these spectacular bunker shots every week, but realize that they are playing courses where the bunkers are maintained to PGA Tour standards, so they are pretty much the same every hole and every week. This helps the players to produce the “product” the tour is trying to deliver–excitement. Of course, those guys also practice bunker play every day.

All of us, on the other hand, play courses where the bunkers are different from one another. This one is a little firmer, that one a little softer. So, let me see if I can shed a little light on the “whys and wherefores” of bunker play.

The sand wedge has a sole with a downward/backward angle built into it – we call that bounce. It’s sole (no pun intended) function is to provide a measure of “rejection” force or lift when the club makes contact with the sand. The more bounce that is built into the sole of the wedge, the more this rejection force is applied. And when we open the face of the wedge, we increase the effective bounce so that this force is increased as well.

The most basic thing you have to assess when you step into a bunker is the firmness of the sand. It stands to reason that the firmer the texture, the more it will reject the digging effect of the wedge. That “rejection quotient” also determines the most desirable swing path for the shot at hand. Firmer sand will reject the club more, so you can hit the shot with a slightly more descending clubhead path. Conversely, softer or fluffier sand will provide less rejection force, so you need to hit the shot with a shallower clubhead path so that you don’t dig a trench.

So, with these basic principles at work, it makes sense to remember these “Five Indisputable Rules of Bunker Play”

  1. Firmer sand will provide more rejection force – open the club less and play the ball back a little to steepen the bottom of the clubhead path.
  2. Softer sand will provide less rejection force – open the club more and play the ball slighter further forward in your stance to create a flatter clubhead path through the impact zone.
  3. The ball will come out on a path roughly halfway between the alignment of your body and the direction the face is pointing – the more you open the face, the further left your body should be aligned.
  4. On downslope or upslope lies, try to set your body at right angles to the lie, so that your swing path can be as close to parallel with the ground as possible, so this geometry can still work. Remember that downhill slopes reduce the loft of the club and uphill slopes increase the loft.
  5. Most recreational golfers are going to hit better shots from the rough than the bunkers, so play away from them when possible (unless bunker play is your strength).

So, there you go, Art. I hope this gives you the basics you were seeking.

As always, I invite all of you to send in your questions to be considered for a future article. It can be about anything related to golf equipment or playing the game–just send it in. You can’t win if you don’t ask!

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Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Task to target



In this week’s episode: How having a target will improve your direction and contact you have with the ball.

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