Pursuit of perfection leaves Tiger's swing in disarray

By Brandel ChambleeAugust 26, 2014, 8:35 pm

In Tiger Woods’ 2001 book “How I Play Golf” he said, “There is no guess work involved in my swing now – when I hit a bad shot, my understanding of cause and effect enables me to pinpoint the reason immediately.”

The roots of that swing were of his conception. After his victory at the 1997 Masters, Tiger watched the tape of that historic blowout start to finish, alone. Expecting to see perfection in his method, he mostly saw flaws.

By his count there were at least 10 things that he didn't like, so he called Butch Harmon, who agreed with Tiger’s assessment and the two of them went to work. Within a year, the swing that would go on to win four consecutive majors was his. He owned it. He wrote a book about it.

What has happened in the last few years has defied all reason. Both his body and his swing have become so altered from that architecture, and he seems so orphaned from the intuition that led to that swing, that he is scarcely recognizable.

This has happened before.

For a while Seve Ballesteros played golf like no one had ever seen, contorting his body in an utterly freakishly athletic way, springing into each shot with a splendid extravagance, each swing unlike the preceding one. Each was a masterpiece. Every move was a new discovery to his genius which originated in the solitude on a beach in Spain where he picked shot after shot off that compacted sand. It was his swing and he owned it.



Tiger conceived of that 2000 swing alone in a room and Seve of his on the beach. I don't think this was provenance being bestowed on them by fate. Besides their enormous physical talents I believe there is intellectual power in solitude, that there is discovery and confidence in solitude. Seve and Tiger tapped into that in a way few ever have.

Like Tiger would be after him, though, Seve was wild off of the tee and like Tiger would do after him he let the pursuit of perfection engulf his talent. Seve, seeking to straighten his drives, sought the guidance of Mac O’Grady, whose mythical ball striking was just that, mostly myth. From 1983-93, his productive years, he was, if I were being nice, average tee to green. But he was a student of Homer Kelly’s book “The Golfing Machine”, a sort of cryptic geometric bible about the golf swing and this advanced the myth.

Seve took the bait and digested those inscrutable golfing machine ideas and never had a top-five finish in a major after age 32. By his mid-30s I saw a player that was divested of all that he was.

Sean Foley read “The Golfing Machine” (TGM) as a teenager but to be fair, like most, he finds flaws in that sphinx-like book. Overriding in his teaching themes, though, are the same sort of propagated mathematical perfections found in TGM. He and teachers like him may yet prove that this more cognitive approach to golf will take the place of Harvey Penick’s homespun instruction in the “Little Red Book.” The promise of this attracts players in the most enticing way. With the promise of perfection, Foley says, “It’s simple math.”

Only it doesn't look simple.

Do yourself a favor, go onto YouTube and search Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus. Scroll down until you find video of them playing in a tournament and watch, not how they swing, but how they begin to swing. In those 20-30 seconds before the club moves away notice how forthright and confident they move – authoritative and awesome to watch.

None of their teachers were ever in sight.

Now search for Suzann Pettersen, Mike Weir, Michelle Wie and Justin Rose, not to see their swings, which are beautiful, but to see how they begin to swing. You will notice a distinct difference to the names above, in both the purpose and cadence of their pre-shot routines. They make rehearsals, they contort their bodies into positions they hope to achieve during the swing, they fret with faux takeaways, all to do something they are already exceptional at. It’s a type of timidity that has become the norm.

Their teachers are rarely out of sight.

The difference between these two groups is the very nature of the way this game is taught now at the professional level – by helicopter teachers who hover. These teachers are well informed and drown out the self-discovery and the confidence that comes from that and replace it with one idea after another and another.

Nicklaus’ teacher Jack Grout said “the golfer who must fall back on a teacher every time any little thing sours in his game cannot but have a limited future.” Jack was given a set of basics or fundamentals and then left to work them out on his own, just as Seve and Tiger did for a time.

Nicklaus’ records stand as evidence not just to his talent but to the proper nurturing and maintenance of that talent. Just as his records are the gold standard so, too, should his teacher-student relationship with Grout be an example that the goal of any instructor should be the independence of their students.

Tiger at 21 knew enough about his swing to orchestrate the changes that lead to the greatest stretch of golf in history. At 38 he may be golf’s version of Humpty Dumpty and all the king’s men hopeless to place him back into his origins. Perhaps he should tell all the king’s men to take a hike.

Alone in thought, watching the video from the 1997 Masters Tiger was in as powerful a state as any athlete can be. He decided what needed to be done, he had a game plan, he could feel it, taste it, smell it and he executed it.

Who should be his next coach is likely the difference between him breaking Jack’s major record or not and because of what he means to golf, that decision means a lot to the game. This is all precisely why I hope his next teacher’s name is Tiger.

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.


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With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


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“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”