Thursday, May 10, 2012
The first thing Tiger Woods needs to admit to himself is that he is not the same person he was 12 years ago when he was far and away the best player on the PGA Tour and could win tournaments without his best stuff. He is now 36, and needs to accept the fact that he can't hit the ball as far, or pull off the crazy shots that he used to. Example: I believe it was Saturday of the 2012 Masters, Tiger has just driven his ball into the rough on the par-5 13th hole at Augusta National. The normal player would think, "Ok, my ball is in the rough, lets just lay up and then try and hit an approach close. Still a good chance for birdie here." Not so for Mr. Woods. Instead of laying up, Tiger rips a three-wood from the rough in a very risky attempt to go for the green. The balls plugs in the creek bank short of the green and Tiger is forced to take a penalty and a drop. He is able to get the ball up and down for par, but if he had just laid up, he would have had a great chance at birdie. He needs to start thinking this way, instead of the "I can do anything" mentality that he has always had. That style just isn't going to work for him anymore I don't think. Easier said than done for the game's greatest player though.
Second, his short game still needs work, and might never be the same. Tiger seems to have lost that killer instinct on and around the green. No longer do Tiger fans such as myself just assume every putt is going to drop, in fact it is probably the contrary now. His chipping and short irons have also left much to be desired. I had never seen Tiger fan a 9-iron until this year's Masters. Unheard of. This aspect of his game seems hopeless at times, but if he can adapt his game to suit his age like I previously stated, there is hope.
Ben Hogan once lamented to his wife that he couldn't for the life of him make the medium-range putts he needed to make to win tournaments. His wife told him that he would have to just find a way to hit the ball closer to the hole on his approach. This is essentially what Tiger needs to do. Tiger needs to cut out the mistakes that exaggerate his short-game deficiencies, and put himself in better shape once he gets to the green. This is especially true on par-5s. There is no reason why he shouldn't still be birdieing par 5s at an alarming rate. He just needs to go about it in a different way. As soon as Mr. Woods realizes that he is not 19 anymore, and that his abilities have changed dramatically over the years, I think you will begin to see more of the Tiger that won at Bay Hill this year rather than the Tiger that is missing cuts.