Crisis of Confidence

By Randall MellJuly 22, 2010, 12:12 am
Tiger Woods’ switch to a new putter for the first three rounds of last week’s British Open was about more than his search for better feel or a better roll.

It was about more than the new grooves on the putter face.

It wasn’t really about technology at all.

No matter what Woods says about his tinkering with a new putter, you can bet he was looking for the same thing every professional looks for when he makes a change.

“When you see a player looking for a new putter, it isn't really a new putter he's looking for,” says Hall of Fame teacher Bob Toski, the PGA Tour’s leading money winner in 1954. “He's looking for confidence, the confidence he thinks that putter can give him.”

Tiger Woods
At St. Andrews Tiger Woods averaged 33 putts through the first three rounds with the Nike Method before reverting to his familiar Scotty Cameron in Round 4. (Getty Images)
Woods’ putter switch last week was the strongest evidence yet that he’s lost confidence in a way he’s never lost it before.

It’s why Woods ditching his hallowed Scotty Cameron Newport 2 for a Nike Method 001 created such a fuss.

Even in the case of Woods, who ranks as one of the greatest putters who ever lived, the problem’s likely the archer and not the arrow, as pros say about putting woes.

And yet the best players the game has ever seen believe there can be magic in new arrows.

They believe it profoundly.

Jack Nicklaus wasn’t married to a putter, winning his 18 majors with four different models.

Before the ’67 U.S. Open at Baltusrol, Nicklaus was struggling with his putting and ready to abandon the Ping model he was using. He tried one of Deane Beman’s Bulls Eye putters on the practice putting green before the event and fell in love with it, but Beman didn’t want to part with it.

Could you imagine the reaction in the British tabloids if Woods had tried out putters belonging to other players on the practice green at St. Andrews last week? He would have been declared a lost soul with no chance of recovery.

Nicklaus, by the way, won at Baltusrol in ‘67 with a putter dubbed “White Fang,” an Acushnet John Reuter Jr. Bulls Eye given to him by a friend of Beman’s. Fred Mueller had a model just like Beman’s but painted the blade white to reduce the sun’s glare, thus the nickname. Nicklaus made eight birdies in the final round to win and broke Ben Hogan’s U.S. Open 72-hole scoring record.

Though Nicklaus won four other tournaments with White Fang, he would abandon the putter in search of another freshening of confidence and a more magical arrow.

Nicklaus won the ’66 Masters with a Slazenger Jack Nicklaus putter, the ’67 U.S. Open with White Fang and the ’86 Masters with a MacGregor Response ZT putter. It’s important to note he did show some unusual affection for a George Low Sportsman putter. He won 15 of his majors with that.

Losing confidence in a putter isn’t normally a big deal in golf circles. It happens every week on the PGA Tour. It happens every day. It’s just that everything’s spectacularly larger when Woods is involved.

And Woods’ Scotty Cameron Newport 2 was invested spectacularly with confidence.

Woods made that putter a big deal winning 13 major championships after putting it in his bag at the Byron Nelson Classic in 1999, winning all but one of his majors with it. He won 63 PGA Tour titles with the putter and more than $87 million in PGA Tour earnings.

That Woods is searching for his old confidence doesn’t make him desperate. It makes him a pretty typical Tour pro. But that’s big news, too. Woods has never been your typical Tour pro.

Sergio Garcia used more putters in a single round than Woods used in a 12-year run.

Garcia stuffed a belly putter and a short putter in his bag before defeating John Senden in the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship two years ago.

When it comes to chasing confidence, Mark Calcavecchia’s a virtual playboy with putters, a classic love ‘em and leave ‘em sort of guy.

“I’ve played more than once with two putters in the same round,” Calcavecchia once told me. “I’ve used a different putter in all four rounds of a tournament before.”

And Calcavecchia’s finished more than one round without a putter in his bag.

“If I’ve got a putter that’s not working, there’s a good chance I’m going to toss it,” he said. “I can think of a half dozen that are at the bottom of lakes somewhere. I can think of a couple others that I’ve buried in flower gardens.”

When you see Woods tossing his putter in a lake, or burying it in a garden before trying out Calcavecchia’s claw grip, you’ll know he’s gone beyond chasing confidence and is truly experiencing a crisis of confidence.

You don’t have to be a student of psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut’s deep probing into how shame affects behavior to surmise that Woods’ performance is impacted by the turmoil that’s invaded his head and heart these last eight months, but you'd have to be a psychic to know if his confidence will ever fully return.

All we know right now is that he’s beginning to look like every other Tour pro. He’s chasing confidence that comes and goes.
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Woods admits fatigue played factor in Ryder Cup

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 12:35 pm

There was plenty of speculation about Tiger Woods’ health in the wake of the U.S. team’s loss to Europe at last month’s Ryder Cup, and the 14-time major champ broke his silence on the matter during a driving range Q&A at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach on Tuesday.

Woods, who went 0-4 in Paris, admitted he was tired because he wasn’t ready to play so much golf this season after coming back from a fourth back surgery.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

The topic of conversation then shifted to what's next, with Woods saying he's just starting to plan out his future schedule, outside of "The Match" with Phil Mickelson over Thanksgiving weekend and his Hero World Challenge in December.

“I’m still figuring that out,” Woods said. “Flying out here yesterday trying to look at the schedule, it’s the first time I’ve taken a look at it. I’ve been so focused on getting through the playoffs and the Ryder Cup that I just took a look at the schedule and saw how packed it is.”

While his exact schedule remains a bit of a mystery, one little event in April at Augusta National seemed to be on his mind already.

When asked which major he was most looking forward to next year, Woods didn't hesitate with his response, “Oh, that first one.”

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Podcast: Fujikawa aims to offer 'hope' by coming out

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 17, 2018, 12:03 pm

Tadd Fujikawa first made golf history with his age. Now he's doing it with his recent decision to openly discuss his sexuality.

Last month Fujikawa announced via Instagram that he is gay, becoming the first male professional to come out publicly. Now 27, he has a different perspective on life than he did when he became the youngest U.S. Open participant in 2006 at Winged Foot at age 15, or when he made the cut at the Sony Open a few months later.

Joining as the guest on the latest Golf Channel podcast, Fujikawa discussed with host Will Gray the reception to his recent announcement - as well as some of the motivating factors that led the former teen phenom to become somewhat of a pioneer in the world of men's professional golf.

"I just want to let people know that they're enough, and that they're good exactly as they are," Fujikawa said. "That they don't need to change who they are to fit society's mold. Especially in the golf world where it's so, it's not something that's very common."

The wide-ranging interview also touched on Fujikawa's adjustment to life on golf-centric St. Simons Island, Ga., as well as some of his hobbies outside the game. But he was also candid about the role that anxiety and depression surrounding his sexuality had on his early playing career, admitting that he considered walking away from the game "many, many times" and would have done so had it not been for the support of friends and family.

While professional golf remains a priority, Fujikawa is also embracing the newfound opportunity to help others in a similar position.

"Hearing other stories, other athletes, other celebrities, my friends. Just seeing other people come out gave me a lot of hope in times when I didn't feel like there was a lot of hope," he said. "For me personally, it was something that I've wanted to do for a long time, and something I'm very passionate about. I really want to help other people who are struggling with that similar issue. And if I can change lives, that's really my goal."

For more from Fujikawa, click below or click here to download the podcast and subscribe to future episodes:

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Davies takes 2-shot lead into final round of Senior LPGA

By Associated PressOctober 17, 2018, 2:00 am

FRENCH LICK, Ind. - Laura Davies recovered from a pair of early bogeys Tuesday for a 2-under 70 that gave her a two-shot lead going into the final round of the Senior LPGA Championship as she goes for a second senior major.

In slightly warmer weather on The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort, the 55-year-old Davies played bogey-free over the last 11 holes and was at 6-under 138. Brandi Burton had a 66, the best score of the tournament, and was two shots behind.

Silvia Cavalleri (69) and Jane Crafter (71) were three shots behind at 141.

Juli Inkster, who was one shot behind Davies starting the second round, shot 80 to fall 11 shots behind.

''I had a couple of bogeys early on, but I didn't panic,'' Davies said. ''I'm playing with a bit of confidence now and that's good to have going into the final round.''

Davies already won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open this summer at Chicago Golf Club.

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Miller's biggest on-air regret: Leonard at Ryder Cup

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 12:00 am

Johnny Miller made a broadcasting career out of being brutally honest, calling golf tournaments exactly like he saw them.

His unfiltered style is what kept him on the air for nearly 30 years, but it wasn't always the most popular with players.

After announcing his upcoming retirement, Miller was asked Tuesday if there were any on-air comments he regretted over the last three decades. One immediately came to mind.

"I think that I didn't say the right words about Justin Leonard at Miracle at Brookline about he should be home watching it on TV. I meant really - I did say he should be home, but I meant the motel room. Even then I probably shouldn't have said that," Miller recalled. "I want so much for the outcome that I'm hoping for that I actually get overwhelmed with what I want to see. Almost the kind of things you would say to your buddies if you were watching it on TV, you know? He just couldn't win a match."

After struggling on Friday and Saturday in team play, Leonard ended up the U.S. hero after halving his Sunday singles match with José María Olazábal by holing a 40-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole - one of the most famous shots in Ryder Cup history.

"Of course he ended up - after the crappy comment I made that motivated maybe the team supposedly in the locker room, and he ends up making that 45-, 50- foot putt to seal the deal," Miller said. "Almost like a Hollywood movie or something."

Not only did the putt seal the comeback for the U.S., but it also earned Leonard an apology from Miller. 

"I apologized to him literally the next day; I happened to see him. I tried to make a policy when I go over the line that I get ahold of the guy within 24 hours and tell him I made a double bogey, you know. That's just the way I have done it through the years."