Like anyone else watching this last weekend’s action at the PGA Championship in Atlanta, Tiger Woods was sitting likely at home in Florida asking himself “who the hell are these guys?” Off mic, I am sure Jim Nantz was doing the same thing. No one has heard of any of these players before last weekend. I am picturing them standing outside the clubhouse begging security to let them in. Yet, one of them ended up winning the most
prestigious tournament in all of golf. Tiger Woods, meanwhile, displayed for the world one of the biggest meltdowns in professional sports. His game this week couldn’t have looked any worse if he played his two rounds drunk. The look on Tiger’s face at points in his rounds looked like all he wanted was a hug. Along with finding that hug, he needs to find his game again.
Tiger is definitely healthier than we’ve seen him at any point in the last year or so. His leg looks good, he’s walking without a limp or the need to use his driver as a cane (it had to serve some purpose since he can’t find a fairway to save his life). Lord knows all the personal trials he’s been through the sordid details of mistress after mistress coming out of the shadows to say that at some point in time she’d slept with Tiger. We’ve seen the pictures and video from the scene of his Escalade meeting a fire hydrant and a tree. We all know the hell from which he has had to emerge. He could practically write the sequel to Dante’s Inferno at this point. We all know he took time off to deal with his personal demons and get those affairs settled. Now he can add physical health onto the list of completed items.
In all this, we’ve seen something I don’t think anyone has ever seen from Tiger. That would be humility. His recent transgressions and injuries have given him a new perspective on life and golf, I believe. He’s been better with the media. He’s had a different approach to his game. Even in his struggles, he appears to like the game more than he has in a long, long time. If he can get his game all working together—right now some days his iron play is great, others his driver cooperates, and others he actually gets along with his putter without the need of it ending up in a water hazard–he can not only enjoy the game, he can enjoy it returning to his dominating self. In the last 13 majors, there have been 13 different champions. No one person has been able to come along and say “I am the man. Come get some.”
What that will take is one more act of humility. I am sure that Sean Foley is a good swing coach. Good will not and should not cut it for Tiger Woods. He might be a more humble man than we saw in previous years. He is still a competitor. He still says he will not enter a tournament unless he believes he can win it. Sean Foley is good, Hank Haney and Butch Harmon are great. Tiger’s swing has golf balls going off on world tours. His putter is not cooperating. The difference is not his talent, but his confidence. There was just that extra something in his game under Harmon and Haney that made him an unbeatable, unstoppable force. Since Woods named Foley as his coach, he has won nothing. He has contended in nothing. The results under Haney and Harmon are unmistakable.
Under Butch Harmon, Woods won eight majors, including what are considered three of the most dominating major wins in the history of golf—1997 at the
Masters, a win by 12 strokes. 2000 at the US Open played at Pebble Beach, a win by 15 strokes. 2000 at the Open Championship played at St. Andrews, a win by 8 strokes. His swing was a thing of beauty. His putter rarely if ever failed him. Tiger’s largest issue recently has been his inability to hit the ball straight off the tee. When the ball is going anywhere and everywhere, it is virtually impossible to get back on track, to put yourself into a position where you’re putting for eagle or birdie or even par. Bogies have become the norm for Tiger and that’s not who he was or can be again. Under Harmon, Tiger’s driving accuracy in six years of tutelage was 68.7%. Hit the ball straight, win the tournament.
Hank Haney offered Tiger much of the same as Butch Harmon. It was a slightly different approach to the game, but the effects were similar. In reality, Tiger hit the height of his career under Harmon, but his winning ways under Haney were nothing to sneeze at. He won his other 6 majors under Haney’s watchful eye. None of those, however, were by more than three shots. He also was slightly more inconsistent hitting accurately with Haney than with Harmon, though many players would kill for the 57.8% number during their roughly seven years together. Still pretty damn good.
Tiger Woods’ game is with the majority of his golf balls—in the rough, woods, and the water. It doesn’t really matter which of these guys he goes and gets. He needs someone to completely disassemble whatever it is he calls a golf swing right now and start all over again. We all know we won’t be seeing him between now and next season, probably sometime right before the Masters in April. There is an advantage with either of them and that is familiarity. They already know who they’re working with. They already know how he is wired. They know the tricks to get into his head. His swing
issues are as much mental, hey try going through what he just did and think your game will be fine, and they can deal with those just as well. Haney was coaching Tiger upon the death of his father in 2006. Picture the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil on a golf course; that was Woods upon his return to play across two continents to end the season.
Tiger has done much to repair his image, his personality, and almost every part of his life following the bottom falling out Thanksgiving 2009. Seeing him play the last two weeks was painful. His game is in need of total reconstruction surgery. That look was apparent on Tiger’s face. His largest act of humility still awaits him this off-season—to go get that hug he needs from Hank or Butch.