December 15, 2016

Tiger Woods's Impressive Return

After almost 15 months since his last competitive round, Tiger Wood finally made his return to the golf scene. In a tournament with only a field of 18 players, he finished ahead of just two players that completed the full 72 hole event. However, most fans, fellow players, and critics have viewed his return as a success. He led the field in most birdies with 24 and also the most double bogies with six. So when he was good he was really good and when he was bad it was bad. His final round of 76 was the worst score posted of all the contestants. But when you consider that one year ago, the former number one player in the world couldn't tie his shoe laces or walk upright, then just playing was a real accomplishment.

I was most anxious to see how his body had healed and if he could make an aggressive swing without body interference. What I saw on television, he exceeded my expectations. The swing was fluid and balanced and had plenty of power. I was most impressed with his mid and short distance iron play. His distance control with those clubs was excellent. There is a distinct difference between hitting balls on the range and hitting them on the course when you want to score. There is even a bigger difference when you are in competition. After fifteen months of not competing, his body responded, his mind was in tune, and he was competitive. It was a great start.

Many years ago in Colorado, my next door neighbor was Dave Hill. Dave was a thirteen time winner on the PGA Tour and the Vardon Trophy winner in 1969. We became friends and I had the opportunity to play a few rounds with him and pick his brain on golf and other subjects. He was a very interesting intelligent individual and extremely opinionated. He either liked you or not and you knew where you stood. He didn't care. A member of Lakewood Country Club asked Dave if his son could become a professional golfer. This was Dave's answer. For the first two years get the best instruction possible and practice all facets of the game, but do not go on the golf course. After the swing mechanics have been learned, then play as much golf as possible playing 36 to 54 holes a day to learn how to score. Do this for another two years. The final two years will test to see if he can contend and win in tournament competition. Play in every event possible and see the results. Then, after six years of dedication to becoming the best golfer you can become, you then have the data to properly answer that question. What Dave outlined, although a bit overstated, was the commitment and dedication to becoming one of the elite players in the world. It also pointed out his feelings on the different elements that form a golfer. There is the swing, the playing of the game, and then competition. They are very different and each has to be learned. Most never get past the first part, but learning how to play is even harder than the mechanics. Competition is a learned ability, but you have to have the building blocks to rise to the next level.

What last week's Hero Challenge showed with Tiger was his body is healthy again and that his swing can produce the shots necessary to play at a high level. His feel for the game and playing instincts were solid and his routine showed little signs of confusion or indecision when executing his shots. What was missing was closing the deal when he got a good stretch of birdies going and finishing the round with a good score. Tiger really hasn't played a full competitive schedule since the 2013 season. If Dave Hill were advising him, he would say, "get out and compete and play as many tournaments as possible to get your tournament competitive mentality back." It's fun to have Tiger playing again; it will be even more fun if he returns to his competitive best!



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