Tiger shoots 85!
What’s wrong with Tiger? If a player can shoot one under par for 36 holes, there should be no way to then shoot 13 over par in the next round. After three rounds of golf at the Jack Nicklaus Memorial Tournament, there were approximately 350 rounds played on the Muirfield Village Golf Course. Tiger’s score is the worst score by two shots! How can the one time best player in the world look totally helpless and without a clue?
Teachers have a phase for what Tiger is doing on the course. We call it “playing golf swing”. All expert players know that you cannot play your best if you are concentrating on your swing instead of playing the game. It is true that you can get away with thinking “golf swing” for a while, but you can’t come close to your potential if that is your main focus. I guarantee you that Tiger had no swing thoughts while he was winning any of his 86 tournaments worldwide. Tiger is smart and he knows that he needs to get away from his perfectionistic tendencies and get back to just playing the game. Right now he cannot trust his swing on the golf course. We are told that he looks near perfect in practice. If that is the case, the problem is not physical. All the golf analysts on television are showing what he is doing wrong and why the erratic shots. But why is he so good in practice? If he used the driving range swing on the course, he would be back playing great. The bad swings in competition are triggered by poor mental preparation and imagery. In psychology there is a saying that, “in order to gain control, you must give up control”. Tiger is a control freak. He is so in control in all aspects of this life that giving up control is not in his nature. However, in his prime, he was very much in control. The control that he possessed during that period of time was superior talent, great length, deft wedge play, excellent putting, and an intimidating presence. He trusted his golf swing and his talent usually made up for small mechanical errors.
Now he is older, he has had injuries to his left knee, neck, elbow, and lower back issues. He has had surgeries. When you come back from injuries and surgeries, your muscles react differently. You aren’t as strong or as quick. Even if you do the same motion, the body may interpret it differently. Many golfers have lost their swings because they have compensated for an injury and lost their feel. I think Tiger misunderstands the control that he possessed in his prime. He was so strong mentally to the point he probably felt invincible. Now his belief system has been challenged and he has shown himself to be very human. At this point he wants to get back to his old feelings and confidence. Where he has gone wrong is that he thinks the path back is through a perfect swing. If the swing works in practice, then his attention is misplaced. He should go from swing oriented to” playing golf”. He was a master at “playing golf”, which is; get it from point A to point B and from B to C. The golf swing is not a solid rigid thing; it is an every changing and fluid entity. Players don’t own golf swings, they rent it for short periods of time. Some longer than others, but it is a changing non-permanent thing. When Tiger was younger, he occasionally said the he won with his “B” game. That wasn’t his “B” swing, but his “playing game”. Tiger needs to release his control and play with the swing that he has for a given day, and not try to force a perfect swing on a rebellious body and mind.
What happens from here is anybody’s guess. He overcame his chipping and pitching problems, which at the time seemed insurmountable. The pitch and chip shot is a feel oriented motion that relies on your vision to see the shot and then direct the brain to carry out the information gathered. For him to overcome the “yip” like shots that we saw at the beginning of the year required a change in his mental approach. He obviously succeeded. Now he needs to use the same approach on his whole game. I’m still a believer in Tiger, but he is off course right now. I hope he finds the right way back. I close with my favorite golf quote from a fine golfer of the 1930’s, “Wild Bill” Melhorn; “what the mind believes, the body will achieve”.