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What Tiger should give back to the game

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After Tiger Woods’ nothing-less-than astonishing return to form this year, capped by his recent win at The Tour Championship, it seems nearly everyone is back on the bandwagon. Need proof? Odds makers around the world have already made him the favorite to win next year’s Masters. And if you listen to the pundits tripping over each other to provide each fresh take you’d think this older, wiser, and humbler version of Tiger is not only now primed to do finally break Nicklaus’ major tournament record, but to possibly even be the one to who finally brings peace to the the Middle East, but I digress.

It’s true, Tiger’s done much for golf, likely more than any player of the modern era. In the past, he’s been penned as the games’ savior, bringing more eyeballs on, and players to, the sport than anyone since Palmer, and maybe more. He ushered in the era of the golfer as an uber-athlete, while bringing more attention, and more money to the sport (and the pockets of all his would-be successors and competitors), than any player before him. And he’s done all that just by playing it.

At the same time, though, the game has given Tiger much, arguably much more than any player before him, and so to a degree, I think it’s okay to expect that he owes it much more than any player before him. Sure, he’s given back in ways that go beyond just playing, like what he’s given to many who may never even play the game through his foundation. But it occurred to me after his win the other day, that Tiger now has a unique opportunity to give something different back to the game, and a host of struggling rank and file golfers that have largely supported him through the highs and lows of his career. And maybe, just maybe, this kinder, gentler, humbler Tiger is finally in a place where he’ll consider doing it.

Despite the scourge of slow play, time famine, and the other myriad of reasons cited for a drop in golf participation during the decade Tiger has spent absent from the major winners’ circle, one of the biggest ongoing issues affecting participation often goes unheralded. And this issue not only drives an estimated 25 percent of the players who quit the game from it, it greatly hampers the enjoyment of it for a vast multitude of others who still choose to play. The affliction known as the yips.

Now, if you listened to nearly every one of those same back-on-the-bandwagon pundits a mere year or two ago, they were lining up just as fast to claim how the yips were as much behind Tiger’s absence from competition (and his poor showings when did compete) as was his ailing back. Even the Tiger apologists had begun to come around, resigning themselves to the fact that something was seriously wrong, even while they tip-toed around the actual word like its utterance alone had the power to take him down. But with each topped tee shot, skulled bunker shot, or pitch from a tight lie that he laid the sod over, what were at first whispers rose to a near crescendo. Tiger had the yips. Especially around the greens, but it didn’t stop there, as his decade-long struggle with the big-stick was also being hailed as more mental than anything to do with the umpteen incarnations of his golf swing.

Watch this new Tiger, though, especially these past few months, and while his driver is still suspect, it’s hard to believe all those conversations about the yips were even being had. Contending in numerous events, coming close in two majors, and now winning The Tour Championship, and nearly The FedEx Cup, and even the staunchest Tiger critic would have a hard time not agreeing that he’s back, and not just from a bad back, but from a mental abyss the likes of which it can be argued that few have ever returned to the top of the sport from.

And this is where Tiger can finally, truly give something back. As one of the best to ever pick up a pitching wedge, I think it’s time we were treated to a little bit more than a mere platitudes, a What’s in The Bag, or an analysis of the nuts and bolts of the latest incarnation of his golf swing. It was long considered that Tiger’s iron-clad psyche, his iron will, and his mental toughness were his greatest weapon. In his prime, he was other-worldly, winning often by sheer intimidation. But now that that the myth of his immortality has been shattered, and he’s been revealed as much everyman as he is the superman we once put up on that pedestal, it’d be nice to see him play the part of Toto and pull back the curtain a bit on the struggles of the great and powerful Oz. And give us some real insight on what it exactly took to bring him back from the brink.

Tiger’s former coach Hank Haney (who also battled the yips) once did it, even wrote a whole book about it, something I’m sure it took some pride-swallowing to do. Tiger doing it would be on another level. And while it would be an even bigger act of humility for him to do so, especially when you consider his long-standing disdain for admitting to any kind of weakness, it would mean so much more.

If what we’re really seeing is a kinder, gentler, wiser, humbler Tiger this time around, one whose more appreciative of all he once had, all he still does, and all the game has given him, then maybe just maybe this time he’ll throw a bone to some of the rank and file who love this game, who’d love to keep loving it, and shed some light on the specifics of how he’s managed to leave one of the games’ biggest specters behind. It could help many get more out of the game, and give many more the hope they need to keep playing it. And in the process, Tiger just might give back to the game something he never knew he had the power to: the gift of its enjoyment.

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Mike Dowd is the author of the new novel COMING HOME and the Lessons from the Golf Guru: Wit, Wisdom, Mind-Tricks & Mysticism for Golf and Life series. He has been Head PGA Professional at Oakdale Golf & CC in Oakdale, California since 2001, and is serving his third term on the NCPGA Board of Directors and Chairs the Growth of the Game Committee. Mike has introduced thousands of people to the game and has coached players that have played golf collegiately at the University of Hawaii, San Francisco, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Davis, University of the Pacific, C.S.U. Sacramento, C.S.U. Stanislaus, C.S.U. Chico, and Missouri Valley State, as men and women on the professional tours. Mike currently lives in Turlock, California with his wife and their two aspiring LPGA stars, where he serves on the Turlock Community Theatre Board, is the past Chairman of the Parks & Recreation Commission and is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Turlock. In his spare time (what's that?) he enjoys playing golf with his girls, writing, music, fishing and following the foibles of the Sacramento Kings, the San Francisco 49ers, the San Francisco Giants, and, of course, the PGA Tour. You can find Mike at mikedowdgolf.com.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. bernd

    Oct 9, 2018 at 1:04 am

    1. Tiger owes nothing to the game of golf, he has given as much as he has received, if not moreso if you’re talking net revenues, etc
    2. Poorly written article, terrible transitions from one thought to another. Please, stop writing.
    3. Tiger doesn’t need to be anything to anyone besides his family at this point. If perceived as kinder, humbler, gentler, to the public, does it even matter? Is it even real? And again, he doesn’t owe that to the public. Last thing we need is another athlete pretending to put on a facade.

  2. Aztec

    Oct 8, 2018 at 9:19 pm

    Mike Dowd is the same guy who wrote an article saying amateurs should play at 30 times their average driving distance in order to break 100, 90, etc. (it’s easy to find on this site if you want). So, if you’re average drive is 250 you should be playing 7,500 yd courses to maximize your chances. AND he says this is backed by ‘research’. A lot of people called him out on this – not one response from him to either defend his position of just admit he made a mistake. This should give you an idea how credible he is.

  3. frank cichon

    Oct 8, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    His putting is not close to what it was like 5-6 years ago. I first noticed at Agusta a few years back when he had an eagle putt around 10 feet for either taking the lead or to tie for the lead (back 9 on Sunday) and he missed the put on the low side and the putt would not have hit the back of the hole..maybe it would not have even got to the hole. When Tiger was winning most of his putts hit the back of the cup with speed……too of he come up SHORT & often short on the LOW side…how often did that happen 5-6 years ago.His win was in a short field event (30 in the field , although a strong field) rounds of 65,68,65 FINAL round of 71 (average score for final round was UNDER 70) had a 4 shot lead after the 1st hole and only won by 1 when really only 2 players had a chance to beat him and they posted rounds of 74 & 75. I do not think he had much pressure put on him Sunday or the result may have been different.

  4. dat

    Oct 8, 2018 at 11:06 am

    Pathetic piece.

  5. William Davis

    Oct 8, 2018 at 9:38 am

    Could we not have a rest from Woods for, say, two months. He can then make yet another comeback.

  6. Hawkeye77

    Oct 8, 2018 at 7:45 am

    Seems like the only folks suggesting Tiger needs to “admit” he had the yips are those folks who wrongly claimed that he did in the first place, lol. Now he’s won and all the naysayers have to cling to something. Well written but the premise simply wrong.

  7. JP

    Oct 7, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    Author of this story should be fired.

  8. Kool Aid

    Oct 7, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    I said that when Tiger fell from grace, he should have donated 100 million dollars to 3rd world countries

  9. Duggie Howser

    Oct 7, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    Sounds like an Elizabeth Warren piece.

  10. Johnny Penso

    Oct 7, 2018 at 6:48 pm

    “I would hate to see golf get lost again in that Tiger talk” – Greg Norman

    Quite prophetic.

  11. bj

    Oct 7, 2018 at 6:25 pm

    Worst Ive read on this forum…..Way off base with this. wrong…wrong….wrong

  12. Paul Booij

    Oct 7, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    Tiger owes us nothing. However, it would be nice if he wrote a book about what he went through. I would probably buy it. Just to know about how he changed his swing from where he was a few years ago.

  13. Really?

    Oct 7, 2018 at 11:16 am

    Tiger owes us nothing.

  14. Beau B. Jamin

    Oct 7, 2018 at 10:56 am

    Mike – There is far more factual basis in Big Foot and UFO’s that there ever will be in the so called dreaded golf “yips”. It makes me laugh every time I hear anyone bring this topic up as it is some sort of incurable disease. Where did this goofy old school mythological golf disease actually come from? A scene from Caddyshack perhaps? I honestly don’t know. . . Now if you want to discuss poor performance brought on by a wide variety of things such as : A lack of confidence due to a lack of practice and experience with a given lie, distance, and/or ground conditions; or a lack of confidence due to mental distraction often brought on by paralyzing self consciousness and fear of failure which is more often than not brought on by lack of practice and experience with a given lie or situation, then we might have something to talk about, but “the yips”. . . I don’t know. . .

    • The dude

      Oct 7, 2018 at 9:08 pm

      Here’s what I learned from your post……you don’t know…(really bad post)

      • Bob

        Oct 8, 2018 at 9:23 am

        Here’s what I learned from your post. You’re a troll. . .

  15. Francis Speight

    Oct 7, 2018 at 10:47 am

    He never had the yips he had a bad back, it effects every part of your game.

    • dixiedoc

      Oct 8, 2018 at 10:26 pm

      He still has a bad back and he still has the yips. They’ll come back, you’ll see

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Opinion & Analysis

A road trip to St. Andrews

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In 2017, my son Brian and his wife Lauren, proposed a family trip to Scotland. Both of them have traveled a surprising amount for a couple barely 30 years old, but for us it would be a huge trip. We couldn’t get it scheduled for 2018 but everything lined up for October, 2019, a trip that might even include playing the Old Course in St. Andrews, if we got lucky. The amazing Lauren made all the arrangements, beginning with multiple email exchanges with the staff at the Old Course, who were extremely gracious and encouraging in their communications.

Unlike most other courses, in order to play the Old Course, you have three options: One is to book a very expensive trip through a travel broker who will guarantee a tee time. This is the only way to make your arrangements in advance, but you’re paying thousands for the package, which would include at least three other days of golf. Sounds great but above our budget. Secondly, you can take a real gamble and just show up at the starter’s window the day you are hoping to play, and get in line as early as 3 a.m., put your name on the list and then wait, maybe all day, maybe hopelessly. It’s no way to budget an entire day on your vacation. The third way is to use what is called the “ballot system,” submitting your request for a tee time via email to standrews.com, 48 hours ahead and hopefully getting a spot.

Now, it’s not as grim a prospect as it may sound for planning to play golf in St. Andrews. The above only applies to getting onto the Old Course. We were able to make a tee time for the Jubilee Course, one of six other courses (Jubilee, Castle, New Course, Eden, Strathtyrum, and Balgove), all part of the St. Andrews Links complex, “The Home of Golf” as their brochure proclaims. Since we were scheduling our trip for the tail-end of the golf season, the gentleman from St. Andrews wrote that he was cautiously optimistic we would be successful using the ballot system.

This wasn’t just a golfing vacation, the five us had an outstanding time touring the west coast of Scotland, including the Oban Whisky distillery, the Harry Potter train in Glencoe, Ben Nevis—the highest peak in the UK, Fort William, and the spectacular Highlands, the town of St. Andrews, and finally the marvelous city of Edinburgh. We ended up spending one night in St. Andrews, at The Saint, a lovely four-room hotel, a 10-minute walk from the Old Course. That evening, walking down cobblestone streets, with the R&A clubhouse coming into view, was like walking in a dream.

Our day started out by driving directly to the new Links Clubhouse, which has wonderful views of the courses from the restaurant. We had lunch, and I must admit to being a bit nervous over my chicken bacon mayo sandwich. We’d parked our bags in the locker room down below, it’s just what you’d expect in terms of world-class accommodations and feel. I could just imagine the pros suiting up there as they prepare to play in The Open.

Our day of golf at the Jubilee Course was spectacular, although it got off to a rainy start, but the weather cleared by the fourth hole. Mary, Jill, and Lauren formed our gallery as we teed off, then they went for a walk around the lovely town. I parred the first hole and told Brian that made my entire trip to Scotland. I was on fire, shooting 42 on the front nine but hitting only three fairways and two greens in regulation. Brian shot 45. We’d decided on match play, and I was up by three on the 11th hole. Brian then said the fateful words, “You haven’t hit into a pot bunker all day!” Which I promptly did. My game immediately tanked while he proceeded to make a total of nine pars, shooting 42 on the back, and won the match 2 & 1. Our gallery re-appeared on the 17th hole, the sun was shining, and we were in golf heaven! We ended the day with a pint at the famous Dunvegan Pub by the R&A clubhouse.

Earlier in the day, Brian had received an email from St. Andrews, unfortunately stating that we had not been selected for the ballot to play on the Old Course the next day. He resubmitted our request for the following day with fingers crossed. We headed to our next stop, Edinburgh, looking forward to exploring this ancient yet cosmopolitan city. During our walking tour, Brian received the email notification that we’d scored an 11 a.m. tee time on the Old Course for Friday. He and I would be making a road trip back north while the ladies spent the day in Edinburgh.

It was about an hour ride back to St. Andrews but traffic was quite manageable and we arrived at 9:30, plenty of time for breakfast at the Links Clubhouse. I felt that anticipatory excitement I always have right before marshaling at a big event, like a U.S. Open, where the atmosphere of the place is nearly overwhelming. Not really nervousness, but we were about to play the Old Course! Isn’t that every golfer’s dream? To say Brian was wound up tight would be an understatement, he could barely choke down half a scone. The walk over toward the starters shack, where we would meet our caddies, with the R&A clubhouse right there at the first tee was unreal.

The clerk was so gracious, taking our 130 Scottish pounds green fee (about $160), and handing us a very nice valuables pouch complete with an amazingly detailed yardage book, tees, pencils, divot tool, and scorecard. We were then approached by our two caddies, who between them had nearly 30 years of caddying experience. I got John, whose personality was perfect for me, quiet, calm, not too chatty, yet personable. Brian’s guy, Steve was just right for him as well, right from central casting with a thick Scottish brogue. He instantly bonded with Brian to become his playing partner/coach, which was just what he needed to get over the first tee jitters.

The starter, Richard, approached us as we made our way over to the first tee, greeting us much like you see them do at the start of the Open Championship. He made our presence there seem extra special, despite the fact he’d probably done the same routine 10 thousand times. He even took our picture. We were then introduced to our two other playing partners, both former members of the course, so they didn’t need caddies to show them the way. These guys were hilarious, self-deprecating, with brogues so thick I could understand maybe one word in three, not the best golfers by any stretch, which was somehow quite reassuring and certainly less intimidating. Brian proved to be the best golfer in our foursome by far although he had a rough start, hitting his drive into the Swilcan Burn.

I was really calm on the tee, it helped that there were very few spectators as it was drizzling and maybe 50 degrees. John told me where to aim, (“at that gorse bush off in the distance”) and I was able to do exactly that. As we walked off the first tee Steve said “now you can all breathe again!” I found having a caddy to be such a wonderful added dimension to this whole experience—not just as a guide to point out where in the world I should be aiming on this alien golf layout, but also to set an expectation for me on each shot which I then tried my best to fulfill. The greens weren’t too scary as I felt used to the speeds having played Jubilee, but having John read the subtle breaks and provide aiming points was terrific.

I played bogey golf through the first 12 holes but the rain only intensified and despite John’s best effort to keep things dry, the final 6 holes were a mess. Brian was one up on our match at the turn, then went on to win decisively at 5 up, with a total for the day of 5 pars and a birdie, including par on 17, the famous Road Hole. As the day went on, we found ourselves saying over and over to each other, what a wonderful experience this was despite the conditions. Steve took the traditional picture of us on the Swilcan Bridge, on our way to finishing on 18, which Brian almost parred. He later said he had such a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, having conquered the Old Course.

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TG2: Brooks and Peter Kostis rip Patrick Reed

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Brooks Koepka and Peter Kostis both talk about Patrick Reed and his cheating allegations. Brooks was on SiriusXM and Kostis on No Laying Up don’t hold back their feelings on cheating. Kostis also has some PGA Tour beef, saying that they don’t care about the television broadcast.

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

Watch for players lofting up at altitude at the WGC-Mexico Championship

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This week, at the PGA Tour’s WGC-Mexico Championship, we are going to watch some of the best and longest players on the planet play what will effectively be one of the shortest courses on tour.

Now, 7,341 yards is by no means a cakewalk, and there are shorter courses from a pure yardage perspective played on tour—Harbour Town, as an example, only plays at 7,099 yards from the very back. The difference is Harbour Town is played at sea level while Club de Golf Chapultepec is at over 7,500 feet of elevation, and when you factor in the altitude difference between the two courses, they play very differently—more on the math in a moment.

The altitude will also factor in how some players will be setting up their equipment and we could see some adjustments. The most obvious is lofting up the driver or fairways woods to increase carry, which is something Tiger Woods specifically mentioned last year.

The biggest misconception when talking about playing golf at altitude is that the ball doesn’t spin the same in thinner air and players “loft up” to maintain spin. Let’s get into the physics to bust this “spinning less” myth and simplify the science behind playing at altitude,

The golf ball is an inanimate object, and it has no idea it’s at altitude; the air will not have an impact on how much the ball will actually spin. Yes, increasing loft should, by almost every imaginable measure, increase spin but the air it travels through will not change the spin rate.

However, playing at altitude has an effect, Let’s break down what happens

  • Thinner air exerts less drag force (resistance/friction) on the ball. The ball moves more easily through this less dense air and won’t decelerate as quickly as it flies. But note that the faster an object moves the more drag force will occur
  • Less resistance also means that it is harder to shape shots. So you when you see Shot Tracer, the pros are going to be hitting it even straighter (this makes Tiger’s fairway bunker shot last year even more unbelievable)
  • Less force = less lift, the ball will fly lower and on a flatter trajectory

Time for some math from Steve Aoyama, a Principal Scientist at Titleist Golf Ball R&D (full piece here: The Effect of Altitude on Golf Ball Performance)

“You can calculate the distance gain you will experience (compared to sea level) by multiplying the elevation (in feet) by .00116. For example, if you’re playing in Reno, at 1 mile elevation (5,280 ft.) the increase is about 6% (5,280 x .00116 = 6.1248). If you normally drive the ball 250 yards at sea level, you will likely drive it 265 yards in Reno.”

Not every player will be making changes to their bag, and some will instead focus on the types of shots they are hitting instead. When speaking to Adam Scott earlier this week, I was able to ask if he planned on making any changes heading into Mexico the week after his win at the Genesis Invitational.

“It’s very rare for me to make club changes week-to-week beyond playing in the Open Championship and adding a longer iron. The one thing I focus on when playing at altitude is avoiding partial shots where I’m trying to reduce the spin because as spin goes down the ball doesn’t want to stay in the air. I’ve experienced partial shots with longer clubs that end up 25 yards short, and because of that I want to hit as many full shots as possible”

With Club de Golf Chapultepec sitting just over 7,800 feet above sea level, we’re looking at 9.048 or an increase of just over 9 percent. That makes this 7,341-yard course play 6,677 yards (+/- where the tees are placed).

 

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