What’s Up With Tiger?
It’s Not His Long Game That is the Issue
Many of you have watched Tiger the past few weeks, watched him struggle on the golf course and I am sure you have heard a thousand reasons why Tiger isn’t playing to his past ability.
So, I am going to give you the 1,001 reason (my opinion) as to why Tiger isn’t playing well… and it will probably be completely different than you have already heard.
I believe Tiger’s long game issues have as much to do with his poor short game than his swing changes.
This may sound backwards too many. Let me explain through a story I like to tell my students at our schools.
Many years ago (and it is getting more and more) I was in my freshman year at college (Oklahoma State University). One afternoon I was on the putting green at the university course working on my short game. As I was practicing my putting, an older gentleman was watching me and after a few minutes, approached me and asked me this question:
“How do you play this game?”
To be honest, I don’t remember my exact answer, but the context of my response was you hit your driver long and straight, then hit the ball as close to the hole as possible and make a few putts for good scoring.
The older gentlemen shock his head and said, “When you figure it out you will have a chance to be a good golfer.” And he walked away.
I remember looking around the green and there were some of the golf team members on the green and they were also shaking their heads.
I thought to myself, “What was he asking, why was he asking me, was this a right of passage…? “ I had no idea. I just know I guess I didn’t answer the question correct.
So a few years passed by, a lot of tournament golf and practice occurred in those few years. Bigger tournaments than I had ever played in, better players I was playing against and more practice than I had ever done before.
Fast forward to my junior year… I was again on the green and the “older” gentleman was again watching us practice. At that time I know knew who this “older” gentleman was – Lebron Harris, Sr. – the founder of the OSU golf program and one of the first / best golf coaches.
Mr. Harris approached a young man on the green (a freshman) and asked him the same question he had asked me a few years previous. “How do you play this game?”
To be honest, I have no idea what the young man said, but I do remember seeing Mr. Harris a few minutes later in the pro shop and I responded to him.
I told him I had heard the question again and had a different response than 2 years previous. He asked me what my new response was.
My response was, “You work hard enough and build a short game that is so good, that it takes the stress of your mid game. The stress of your mid game then takes the stress of your long game.” In other words, you are able to play good golf because your short game is so good and you have so much confidence in your short game that it will take care of most long game mistakes. Understanding this will limit the stress on your long game and make you a much better to great golfer.
I remember him looking at me and saying “You are now on the way to being a good golfer.”
Now fast forward to Tiger’s current game. My belief is his struggles have much more to do with his limited practice on his short game than his swing changes. Tiger has worked so hard in the past couple of years on his swing changes that is has forgotten what got him to being one of the best players in the world. His short game.
Tiger was never the best ball striker on tour, Tiger was never the longest hitter on tour, Tiger never lead the tour in fairways hit, driving distance, greens hit in regulation… never. What Tiger was the best at was putting, chipping and saving shots around the green that a majority of even great players could not. That was Tiger’s strength.
So, what can Tiger do to get back to his playing ability of past years? He must not only continue to work on his swing changes, but must put the work back in his short game.
If not, as Mr. Harris eluted to over 25 years ago, there will be way too much stress on his long game to ever allow him to be a great player again.
I read a quote from Tiger last week (after his last event he withdrew from) that I really liked, and think is good for all our students to hear:
“You just have to be patient with yourself. Maybe not hold yourself to as high a standard, but try and sort of really seek out the momentum in other ways. Just try and stay positive every week. Whether the big picture doesn’t look that good, just take away a positive, whatever you can find during the week, and build upon it. You don’t want to keep knocking yourself down.”