Tuesday, May 11

Tiger’s Swing Challenge: In Search of More Fairways

HANK HANEY HAS RESIGNED as swing coach for Tiger Woods. I won’t pretend to know anything about Tiger’s swing and what he should and shouldn’t do in regards to a coach. There are plenty of would-be experts on that subject. But I do know the fairway is there for a reason, and throughout his career Tiger hasn’t spent as much time in it as he would like.

Missed fairways have put tremendous pressure on other parts of Tiger’s game—which admittedly are brilliant, like his recovery play and putting—but it’s reasonable to expect that those skills will fade over time. His putting, even pre-scandal, has been suspect in recent majors. Almost all of the great ones who’ve played the game have eventually lost their touch and nerve on the greens.

Whether it’s a tweak or a rebuild, I think Tiger needs a swing that will put his ball in play much more often. That’s the bottom line. It will be increasingly important as he ages as a player. The putts will not always drop. And those miraculous recoveries and short-game Rembrandts depend on consistently making the five, eight and 10 footers.

A lot has changed in golf over the years: equipment, courses, swing gurus, mental coaches and more. But for all that’s changed, the game is still simple: get the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible. And to do that, especially in the majors, it still comes down to that old adage, “fairways and greens.”

There’s this story about Hogan. Ben was complaining within earshot of his wife, Valerie, about not making more birdies. His challenge at that stage of his career was the putter. What was Valerie’s response? She suggested that her husband hit his iron shots closer to the hole. I love that. (And I think he followed her advice.)

Tiger has won 71 times, including 14 majors, with a persistently wild driver. Which is amazing, just crazy. Some have said he has the driver yips. Maybe so. Now it’s time to fix the tee ball. At 34, and with all the young guns coming along, I don’t think hitting it all over the ball yard is a sustainable strategy for winning a record-setting number of majors.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Image: Gordons/Flickr)

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