No 2 Tiger Swings to a New Beat

By George WhiteDecember 30, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 Stories of the Year - #2Editor's note: We are counting down the top 10 stories in golf for the 2005 season. This is Story No. 2.
 
Has he done enough yet?
 
Does nine full years qualify, six of those when he was No. 1 on the money list, the other three when he was No. 4 or better? Does 10 majors do it, the most of anyone after nine years competing in the history of the PGA Tour? Does 46 tour wins do it, more than any other player in history who has competed just nine years? Maybe three full swing changes, brought about by, (1), a movement that he didnt think would hold up under the grind of the PGA Tour, or, (2), a combination of a knee injury and a back injury that wouldnt tolerate the constant stress that the first revamped swing brought?
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods reacts to his winning birdie putt at The Masters.
Has he done enough to finally vault him to the top of the heap among the storied list of vaunted PGA Tour competitors? The critics are being silenced one by one as the years slowly tick by ' can it be 10 years since Tiger Woods completed a victory in the U.S. Amateur and turned pro at Milwaukee in late August of 1996.
 
If consistently excellent play the first nine years is your criteria, without question 2005 pushed Tiger Woods to the front. If youre going by a full career, then maybe your guy is Jack Nicklaus or Ben Hogan or Sam Snead. But by any measuring stick, 2005 proved that Tiger Woods is part of a very, very exclusive club.
 
This was Tiger in 2005: won six times on the PGA Tour in just 21 attempts; won two majors; won twice in playoffs while losing none (he now has won eight times in nine attempts); was on the victorious U.S. Presidents Cup team, winning a pair of matches with Jim Furyk; won in excess of $10 million; and, in so doing, he reclaimed the No. 1 world ranking from Vijay Singh.
 
Along the way, he also learned that sometimes it doesnt turn out the way you had it figured ' he missed the cut at the EDS Byron Nelson, breaking a string of 142 times in which he had played on the weekend. And he later missed the cut at the Funai Classic in October. Still, that was only the second and third times he had missed in his nine-plus years on tour.

Tiger Woods 2005 actually began late in 2004. It was at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan where he finally won a stroke-play event after a drought of more than a year. That tournament was of huge importance for Woods as he fought to fashion his new swing under his swing instructor, Hank Haney.
 
I think the end of last year (2004) was a big step for me, to have put the pieces together and I won a tournament like I did in Japan - which was a big step for me, going through all the changes with Hank, said Tiger.
 
So I think for me the process has been arduous, a lot of work, a lot of countless hours on the range, in front of a mirror, trying to get it right and trying to teach my body to do something that it hadn't done before. And it's very similar to what I was trying to do back in the middle of '97 through '99 middle of '99. So that took me two years. This time it took me about a year to put the pieces together.
 
The changes he was making had by necessity taken a toll on his game as he struggled in 2004. During that season he won only once, and that wasnt a stroke-play event (the WCG-Accenture, which is match play.)
 
Any time you make changes in your game, it's not going to be an immediate success, and did I probably take a step back? Yeah, probably, I did in '98, too, end of '97, all of '98, and beginning of '99 - almost two years where I didn't really do anything in the game of golf, he said. But then again, once those changes kicked in, I had a pretty good run, '99 and 2000, won 17 times on our Tour.
 
But in only his second tournament of 2005 ' at the Buick Invitational near San Diego ' he nailed down a victory. And this one was in stroke play.
 
Now I know what to do, what to fix and how to fix it out there, he said then. To come down the stretch like that, and I finally hit some really good drives all of a sudden on the back nine when I really needed to.
 
It was at Doral, in a monumental struggle with Phil Mickelson, that Tiger finally reclaimed his first-place status that he had lost six months earlier ' to Vijay Singh. He then won two major championships ' the Masters in a playoff over a gritty Chris DiMarco and a dominating performance in the British Open at St. Andrews. He wrapped up the year with wins at two WGC events ' the NEC and a playoff victory in the American Express.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods now has 46 PGA Tour wins and 10 major titles to his credit.
Is he at the same juncture he was at for nearly three years, in 1999 until halfway through 2001, when he won 22 times? That was during his second swing change, remember. And the answer is no, he hasnt matched that record of victories. And he has missed two cuts this year, dont forget. But Tiger says he never looks back, and those years of greatness will forever be a part of the past ' not the present.
 
Everybody is always trying to say, you can try to get back to 2000, he says forcefully. I don't want to get back to 2000. I want to become better. I want to become better than that. That's the whole idea of making a change.
 
I won the Masters by 12 in '97. I changed my game. Do I want to go back to that? No, I don't. I want to become better than that and I was able to achieve that, and that's why I made this change. I've been scrutinized over the past year or so for doing that, and I'm starting to see the fruits of it now. I've got to continue down the path and continue working hard.
 
But he no longer is in his 20s. On Dec. 30 he turned 30 years old. He has a new bride. He has, once again, a new swing. And he has what he hopes will be an exciting new era in front of him.
 
The 20s have been certainly better than I thought they could ever be, he ventured. I have always thought that golfers' peak years are going to be in their 30s, and hopefully that will be the same for me. I've got a lot of great things I've been working on, and I see my best golf certainly being in the future, not in the past.
 
And for Tiger, the added maturity of turning 30 has had a multitude of advantages.
 
If I look back on my life at 21 versus my life here at 29, it's totally different. The things that used to worry me don't worry me. Things that I thought were important really aren't, that kind of stuff. You just understand, you've got a better grasp. Being out here enough times, enough years, you really start to get an understanding of what it takes to be out here.
 
Its been an adventure, working out here on the PGA Tour in his 20s with three different swing movements. And its a credit to Tiger Woods that he has been able to make changes while still playing at such a high level. And, the swing he has today isnt necessarily the swing he will have for the rest of his career.
 
You're always going to keep working, he said. You never get there - never. You never arrive. And you can only do better the following day.
 
And, golf is fun. Life, for that matter, is extremely enjoyable. There are negatives to being Tiger Woods, sure, but to Tiger,

I love playing. I love competing. I love the thrill of the hunt, getting out there and competing and trying to win a tournament. That's a rush, man, he said.
 
To me, that is as fun as fun gets. I enjoy going home and practicing and preparing just like I always have. I still, even to this day, emulate - whether it's Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer or Lee Trevino. Late in the evening - OK, Trevino is on the green, Palmer hits his shot on the green, Tiger Woods has a chance to win another one. I still do it, even to this day. It's how I grew up, and you never let those childhood dreams ever go away.
 
And Tiger counts his blessings and enjoys his life, completely satisfied that his world is in order.
 
The best part without a doubt is being able to do something you love every day, without a doubt. To do something where you can't wait to wake up and go do it, not too many people in this world can say that. I'm blessed that way.
 
Related Links:
  • The Year in Review
  • Tiger Woods' Bio
  • Full Coverage - The Masters
  • Full Coverage - British Open
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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.

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    Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

    LA QUINTA, Calif. – Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

    Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

    ''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

    Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

    ''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

    Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

    ''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

    Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

    ''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

    The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Web.com Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

    ''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

    Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

    ''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

    The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

    ''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

    He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

    Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

    ''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

    Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

    ''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

    Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.