By Ken MacLeod
Tiger Woods could benefit by going back to college, particularly to spend a few minutes absorbing the wisdom of Tulsa coach Bill Brogden, now in his 30th season at TU and 47th as a head coach.
"Know yourself," has been Brogden’s mantra for decades. Players who truly understand their strengths and particularly their weaknesses will prevail over those who view the game through an idealized mental version of someone they used to be or would like to be.
As to this week’s mini-controversy, I don’t know whether or not Tiger has had a serious setback or if he’s on the road to recovery. What I do know is if he gets healthy enough to play, this time, finally and forever, he has to adjust his mental game to match who he is, which is a 40-year-old veteran of three back surgeries, four knee surgeries and a long list of other ailments.
No more obsession with length and swing speed and Track Man numbers. No more massive head bobs and whipsaw swings that make my back hurt just watching. Many of his greatest shots, like the 3-iron from the hanging lie in the bunker on the 18th hole at Hazeltine in the 2002 PGA Championship, were hit from places he just can’t go anymore. The incredible athleticism required by his heroic shots is not going to be there.
Tiger needs to simply put the ball in the fairway, whatever it takes, even if it means giving up 40, 50, even 60 yards to the longer hitters. That’s tough for his ego, but guess what? He’s still one of the best short to mid-iron players in the game. He can still be one of the best putters. His driving, however, is terrible, and with his back, he doesn’t need to be playing constantly from thick rough, or trying heroic shots from fairway bunkers or among tree roots.
He will give up the tremendous advantage he used to have on par-5s by hitting them in two routinely. And he’s got to accept that he’s not winning any more tournaments on mystique and intimidation. No one fears him. Now it borders on pity.
I would like to see him win again with the golf skills he has remaining, which are plenty. Let’s see what he could do hitting a high percentage of fairways with a much less stressful driver swing exhibiting the same control he does on his shorter shots. If he comes back healthy enough to play but with the same wild driver swing he left with, he may as well not come back at all.