Azinger: Tiger’s quest to get better is backfiring

By Randall MellJuly 10, 2014, 8:30 pm

Did Tiger Woods mess with the all-important fingerprints of his golf swing in his never-ending quest to get better?

ESPN analyst Paul Azinger believes Woods just might have in detriment to his chase of Jack Nicklaus.

With Woods preparing to resume his pursuit of Nicklaus’ record 18 major championship titles in next week’s British Open, Azinger sees Woods in an entirely different place at 38 than Nicklaus was at the same age.

“I think one of the big differences that's very rarely articulated is the fact that while Tiger in his dominance always – for whatever reason – was in this quest to get better, I don’t remember Jack ever saying that,” Azinger said in an ESPN conference call Thursday advancing the network’s British Open coverage. “Jack might have made some tweaks and twerks, here and there, minor tweaks and twerks, but Tiger has made astronomical changes in a quest to get better. As a result, Tiger has actually gotten a little bit worse. I think we can all pretty much see that.”

Azinger, whose 12 PGA Tour titles include the 1993 PGA Championship, believes that Woods may have altered what is almost genetic coding in his swing by moving from coaches Butch Harmon to Hank Haney and now Sean Foley.

“I think where Tiger has made his mistake is he's dabbled with the fingerprints of his golf swing, not necessarily the fundamentals,” Azinger said. “I think he's probably the only person that's ever played well who's looked radically different throughout his career. Even the layman golfer can see the difference in Tiger Woods' golf swing. In Tiger's quest to get better, I think he's actually gotten a little bit worse.”

Azinger said injuries, of course, are a factor in where Woods is at in his pursuit of Nicklaus, but he believes making substantial swing changes with Haney and Foley places Woods in a less advantageous place than Nicklaus was at the same age.

“I think that most golfers have made the same mistakes in some weird way about changing their golf swing, about changing fingerprints, if you will, for fundamentals, and I think Tiger has done that to his detriment,” Azinger said. “Jack never made those mistakes. Jack understood that if he could stay the same, he would still dominate. 

“Tiger didn't need to get better. He just didn't need to get worse. He needed to stay the same, and he could still dominate, and in his quest to get better, it's kind of backfired on him.”

While Azinger isn’t a swing coach, he is as fascinated with the golf swing today as he was in his prime as a player. He’s particularly interested in the nature of swing instruction and how unnecessarily technical and complicated teaching has become. He believes Woods has fallen victim to the same enticements he fell victim to in trying to improve and change his swing after he made his comeback from cancer.

“Everybody in the world looks different,” Azinger said. “I believe fundamentals are really lost in today's instruction to the point where, I'm not saying it's a crisis, but it's pretty bad.  I think a lot of instructors are treating their students like a chiropractor would treat a patient. You need to come back for six straight [treatments]. If somebody tells Tiger Woods it's going to take six weeks or six months, it would shock me. If you don't have Tiger hitting it better in the first 10 or 15 minutes, then you're probably giving him bad information.”

Azinger said it’s a testament to Woods’ greatness that he continued to win majors after dramatically changing his swing under Haney and also has continued to win making large changes under Foley.

“I don't know of anybody who's changed the way they look more than Tiger Woods with respect to his golf swing and still played great,” Azinger said. “Most people just go away. They disappear trying to do what he's done. It just is a real example of what a great player he has been.”

Azinger acknowledges players like Hogan have made changes, but not to the continuing magnitude that Woods has.

If Woods falls short of his quest to catch Nicklaus, Azinger was asked, will injury or swing changes be remembered as what most hindered him?

“I don't know,” Azinger said. “He may look back and have regrets. I know that he's only worked with one guy that's played golf at a really high level, and that's Butch Harmon. For him to just turn it all over to two guys that have never played on a high level is a bit of a mystery, considering how great Tiger was when he did it. 

“I'm not trying to be harsh. I guess it's more blunt than harsh. I hope he plays great. I hope he's recovered from injury.”

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

 

 

Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."


Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout


Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.