Woods No 4 swing change all about the climb

By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2011, 1:43 am
2005 WGC Accenture Match Play

MARANA, Ariz. – Depending on who you ask, or who you believe, Tiger Woods is either one swing away from a breakthrough or swinging aimlessly in the dark. Knowing Woods, and his swing coach Sean Foley, we’ll take the points and the former.

Yet there is no escaping the fact that this swing change, No. 4 for Woods as an adult, has been the most scrutinized. When asked about his current slump, a victory drought that stretches back 15 months and 17 events, Woods is quick to point out that he’s been here before.

In early 1994 he “shortened up” his swing with Butch Harmon and in 1997 he and Harmon underwent a more intense overhaul. Seven years later he underwent a third nip/tuck with Hank Haney. With each change came a predictable slump and, to be accurate, he’s only played nine worldwide events under Foley’s guidance, hardly an adequate snapshot to gauge what has been billed as a dramatic change.

“You know, for the first (change), when I first worked with Butch it took me a year and a half. Then my second change with Butch took me almost two full years. With Hank it took me about 18 months or so. That's a long time before things start clicking,” Woods said recently. “I know it's going to take a long time.”

But what qualifies as a good year for some can be seen as disastrous when viewed through the fish bowl where Woods resides, and with each passing week the external questions and concerns build.

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Most of Woods’ professional fraternity brothers can relate to being caught in between a swing that works on the practice tee but only in fits and spurts when it counts in competition. Lee Westwood, who dethroned Woods atop the World Golf Ranking last year, figures he’s gone through “hundreds” of swing changes in his career, including a particularly sluggish transformation nearly a decade ago when he plummeted outside of the top 100 in the world.

“There's no point in sort of doing it wishy-washy,” Westwood said on Tuesday at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. “I think that's maybe part of my problem eight, nine years ago, when I went through the slump. I didn't get it all straightened out in my mind what I was going to do. I fluttered between different people's ideas rather than going with what I thought was right.”

But if anyone outside of Jack Nicklaus can relate to the unrealistically lofty expectations placed on Woods it is 10-time major champion Annika Sorenstam who dominated the LPGA Tour just as convincingly as Woods once reigned over the men’s circuit.

Renowned her entire career as a quintessential ballstriker, we asked Sorenstam last week as she prepared for her junior event at Reunion Resort outside Orlando, Fla., how many swing changes she went through?

“None,” she said almost surprised by the question. “I tried to fine-tune it every year but I have a very repeatable swing. I don’t understand why (Woods) wants to go through so many swing changes. I was very surprised. I’m always surprised.”

On this, Woods has been rather clear. His goal is perpetual improvement and regardless of results that wasn’t happening in 1994 and 1997 with Harmon or 2004 with Haney and certainly not in 2010 when he signed on with Foley before the PGA Championship.

“I know I can become better,” is his default answer when asked why he would tinker with an action that has produced 14 major championships and 71 Tour titles.

But this particular extreme makeover is less about something new than it seems to be a quest for a swing from Woods’ past. Foley has consistently said the current swing, at least the desired impact position, is virtually no different from the way Woods swung as a junior. It’s why some have speculated that this change will not take 18 to 24 months to sink in like the changes with Harmon and Haney.

“He wants his old swing back, I can tell you that,” Sorenstam said.

But if Woods is coming full swing circle it would seem to support Sorenstam’s original assessment – why change something that was so good?

In fairness to Woods, Sorenstam collected her majors with a simple, Xerox-worthy action that wore down opponents and the most demanding golf courses. Other than 2006 at Hoylake, where he picked apart the field and Royal Liverpool with long irons, and the 2000 U.S. Open clinic at Pebble Beach, Woods has largely made his competitive bones with power and clutch putting.

It’s a reality that at least partially explains why Woods turned to Harmon in 1997 after winning the Masters by 12 strokes and Haney in 2004 after a five-victory 2003 that featured just one Grand Slam top-10.

It’s the lessons of another legend that Woods appears to have a kindred connection with in his never-ending quest. In 1987 Ben Hogan told Golf Digest: “This sounds stupid, but I thought I was always in a slump. Most of the enjoyment in life is in improving.”

In this maybe the golf world is trapped by a classic sport psychology pitfall, lost in the immediacy of results instead of the foundations of the process. For Woods it has always been the climb not the peak that drives him and his current expedition is no different.

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

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Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

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Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm