Has Tiger Been Hiding a Secret

By George WhiteJuly 19, 2005, 4:00 pm
The speaker was none other than Jack the Great. Jack William Nicklaus was checking in with an opinion on Mr. Tiger Woods at the British Open last week. You recall what happened at the British Open, dont you?
I have to say, opined Jack, this is the best I have ever seen Tiger swing.
That covers an enormous amount of territory. There was the Tiger of 99, who won eight times plus once in Europe. Then there was the Tiger of 2000, who won nine times plus another European win. Nineteen wins in 43 starts both here and abroad, an average of almost one in every two entries possibly the most productive swing ever. Tiger Woods was just 25 years old then, but he already had 24 wins on the PGA Tour.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods seems to be reaping the benefits of a second swing overhaul.
This is important because Tiger jettisoned the old swing ' and the old coach ' and began anew with Hank Haney in 2003. Heads suddenly jerked with the news. Youve got to be kidding! Hes changing swings? The old one that produced all those victories, that swing wasnt good enough?
Woods, though, said he was going to change. He subtly took little jabs at those of us ' Im including myself here ' who tried to fathom, 'Why?' Did he really think he could improve on 17 wins in two years?
Tiger says the events of this year have proven he was right. And he would be correct if there was an underlying problem in the swing. If he changed just because he had personal differences with his old instructor, Butch Harmon ' that wouldnt be enough of a reason. If he was just curious about Haneys methods and wanted to give someone else a try, that wouldnt be enough, either. Tiger, though, is extremely bright, and it hardly seems reasonable that he just wanted to get better.
But last week at the British, he dropped a very important clue. He was discussing his mother and her near proximity to the London bomb attacks. She didnt mention it at the time, he said. And that wasnt all unusual, despite the fact that she was so close to the tragedy.
That's kind of how our family is, Woods said. If you're injured or you're hurt or you're sick or anything, you don't tell anyone. You just deal with life and move on.
This is important because at the end of the 2002 season, he himself underwent knee surgery. The knee had bothered him since he had arthroscopy done in college. The old swing involved more of a torquing of the knee. The revamped swing doesnt involve the knee nearly as much.
Anyway, its a very plausible theory. Tiger and a few close confidants are the only ones who know for certain. But if the theory is true, it certainly is understandable to make the change.
However, it still doesnt say that he is an equal to the awesome machine that cut down foes so readily in 2000. He is a very good golfer now, but in 99 and 2000, he was absolutely unworldly. He was arguably the best golfer ever then. Now - he might be in the top 10 of all-time with the new swing, maybe the top five. But he hasnt quite yet matched the run of those magnificent years.
Im not saying that ' the records say that.
Tiger is averaging 14 yards more with his drives now ' 312 vs. 298 in 2000. And a part of that is because he is using a longer driver and part of it is simply improved technology. His accuracy has slipped, though. Hes only finding the fairway 57.2 percent of the time, which is down at the 168th position on the tour ranking ladder. In 2000, he hit 71.2 percent of the fairways, which was good for 54th position.
Of course, the lengthening of the courses comes into play here. And - of course - hitting the fairways isnt nearly as important as hitting the greens. Tiger says many of his fairway misses now are just in the first cut, and it really isnt much of a problem. And sure enough, he leads the tour in greens hit.
Now, for the downer ' hes hitting 71.2 percent of greens now, whereas he hit 75.2 percent in 2000. The Tiger of 2000, it seems, would still beat the Tiger of 2005.
Below-par holes? Both the Tiger of this year and the Tiger of 2000 rank No. 1 in birdies, though the Tiger circa 2000 has the edge ' 4.92 vs. 4.65. And Tiger 2000 made eagles at twice the clip ' one eagle every 72 holes, vs. one every 144 this year this year.
Scoring? That also goes to 2000, when Woods was the greatest in history with an average score of 67.79. This years Woods is still No. 1, but he averages about a stroke more per round ' 68.84. Mark that down somewhat to the longer, more difficult courses. But those are key stats indeed. I don't if they are a full stroke harder - you are free to draw your own conclusions.
Those numbers all tell the tale. Now, the numbers for this year havent been completed yet. They might - probably, in fact ' will still go lower. And Woods didnt say the swing change was complete until after he missed the cut at the Byron Nelson. Is he correct? Hes finished second at the U.S. Open, second at the Western, and won the British since then. And a 2-2-1 finish isnt too shabby, is it?
The reason he was questioned is that, entering the prime of his career, he effected a swing change which cost him a lot of victories. But there may have been no other option ' a bad knee may have been the killer. He may have HAD to make a change.
If so, he now appears to be close to full throttle. Will he win 19 times in two years again? It doesnt seem likely. But then, with Tiger Woods, NOTHING seems unlikely.
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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.