Woods' quest for perfection causing his downfall

By Brandel ChambleeFebruary 9, 2015, 10:00 pm

When Tiger Woods was at his best, in the early 2000s, there were fiscal studies done to explain the consistent rise of the stock market on the Mondays following his Sunday wins. Euphoria – and the optimism that flows from it – was the reason given for the otherwise inexplicable upward market trends following Tiger’s victories. Some 15 years later, there is nothing euphoric about Tiger’s game, and the word most often used to describe it, is "sad."

Golf has a short list of players who ascended to the highest level and then fell to oblivion. In the late 1930s Ralph Guldahl won back-to-back U.S. Opens and in three successive years finished second twice and then won the Masters. If there had been a world ranking system, he would've been at the top. He owned Sam Snead, and beat Byron Nelson by as many as 10 shots en route to winning three majors.

In 1939 Guldahl was offered an instruction-book deal. Taking advantage of newly developed high-speed photography, he put together a flip-book sequence of his swing, called “Groove Your Golf." Shortly thereafter the magic disappeared. His last wins came in 1940, and at age 28 he all but quit the game.

“It's the most ridiculous thing, really," said Paul Runyan, who won 29 times including two PGA Championships. "Guldahl went from being temporarily the best player in the world to one who couldn't play at all.”

Ralph’s wife, Laverne, said, “When he sat down to write that book, that’s when he lost his game.”

Many concurred, and the legend was cemented that over-analyzing his swing led to the destruction of his career.

Then and now: Tiger's swing

More video: What's next for Woods?

If his family and friends were right, Guldahl’s demise was a classic case of conscious thought ruining the flow of athletic gifts – what has come to be called paralysis by analysis.

From 1997-2001 Tiger Woods won 27 times and many shrank in his presence, but David Duval toppled him from the top spot in the world more than once while winning 13 events over this five-year span. David seemed the perfect foil to the colossal talent of Tiger, but his game slipped in 2002 and from 2003-2005 he played 49 tournaments and made just eight cuts.

Unlike Guldahl, who may have lost his game to a technical introspection, Duval’s body betrayed him and a host of injuries chloroformed his career.

Woods has fallen not because he overanalyzed his swing or because his body has given out (his "misfiring-glutes" WD at Torrey Pines notwithstanding). The reasons for Tiger’s fall, like his rise, are not found in statistics, which so often fail to make a distinction between wood and trees. The reason for Tiger’s fall is his ill-fated mythical quest for perfection.

Once when I was sitting in the locker room next to Fred Funk, the straightest driver of my generation, Tiger walked by us and said to him, “I’m coming after you," meaning he had made it his goal to drive it straighter than Fred. I thought to myself, perhaps, but at what cost?

Tiger wanted the perfect swing, to drive it straighter than Funk, to surpass the legend of Hogan. He wanted the perfect body, to intimidate with his presence as much as with his swing. He wanted the perfect record, to fling down and dance upon the annals of golf, to surpass the legend of Jack Nicklaus.

Neither Butch Harmon nor Hank Haney would give Tiger what he wanted, always pointing at the leaderboard in an attempt to get him to stop trying to unravel the rainbow. They knew from their playing backgrounds and having been taught by former players themselves, Butch by his father Claude and Hank by Jim Hardy, that a good shot mattered more than a good swing, and what mattered more than anything was a clear head.

Sean Foley is different and comes at this game from more of an academic background. More professorial than pro. Golf instructors used to have callouses and wrinkles; now they have letters after their names.

With those letters comes a certain arrogance; enough to convince even the best players that they don’t know anything about the golf swing. Enough to persuade Tiger at age 35 to change his swing once again, and not only his swing, but his chipping and putting, too.

These changes were different, though, because they were rooted in math. There is a linear beauty to numbers that is simple and indisputable, and to someone as talented and as malleable and as addicted to perfection as Tiger, irresistible.

But the problem is, golf is not like that. It’s not linear, it’s abstract. It’s not beautiful, it’s messy.

Inevitably the misses don’t make sense because the numbers are there, because the computers say it’s right but today my hands feel fat and my hips won't fire and that square peg won't go in that round hole. Frustration builds, and a player works harder and harder, until he begins to think that the problem is with him and so he works harder – just a few more “reps” and I will get this, he thinks. Of course he won’t and he never will but what he does in the process is beat up his body and confidence is replaced by timidity. The joy of the game is gone.

The mathematical-perfection trend in this game, which has Tiger by the throat and teachers in a tizzy, requires vigilant attention to swing mechanics, and that is not what this game is about. We need all of our senses to corroborate what we see and the imagination thrives on that information to help us create. That is the highest form of this game and is, perhaps above all else, what is beautiful about golf and sad about Tiger.

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.