When the PGA Tour arrived at Torrey Pines a year ago, it was a Tour in transition. A year later, there’s raging debate about whether golf is being led by a Big Three or a full-fledged foursome.
Two of the players in golf’s most prestige pack – Rickie Fowler and Jason Day – are in the Farmers Insurance Open Field this week. Fowler is fresh off a win in Abu Dhabi over major winners Jordan Spieth and Rory McIroy. Day is the defending champion at Torrey, but reportedly battling the flu.
This is set to be Day’s 2016 Tour debut and first chance to make a statement against his peers. He ended the 2015 major season by capturing the title at the PGA Championship by shooting 25-under to set a major championship scoring record. He briefly thereafter vaulted to No. 1 in the world.
Day’s win a year ago at Torrey started to set the Tour on a new course during a week that began with Tiger Woods withdrawing with a back injury. This week Day and Fowler have a chance to contribute to golf’s great debate. Will they deliver? We’ll start finding out on Thurs.
The week Comic-Con arrived in San Diego, a friend and follower of my work asked me if I was going to blog about it.
I told him it hadn’t occurred to me.
“Well, it’s travel, right?” he stated, to which I replied, “Yes.”
“And doesn’t golf have a super hero?” he asked, to which I, after a contemplative pause, responded, “We used to.”
The headline hit my email inbox the Friday of the British Open, a day before Tiger Woods would officially miss the cut, but that conclusion was already foregone.
The Golf Digest headline popped up: “Tiger Woods Officially Finished”.
I copied it and popped it into a text to a few golf friends and contacts.
One replied immediately: “No, he isn’t.”
The dissenting voice was my former instructor, and golf swing mentor, at the Golf Academy of America, Michael Flanagan.
He followed with a text briefly backing up his belief. I offered to take up the matter with him in a future blog post. He agreed. And here we are.
One day in school in 2012 that I’ll never forget is the first time we were shown how to use V1, a video analysis program to teach the golf swing.
Among the many things you can do on V1 is take professional swings and break them down through sequencing and slow motion. You can also draw on the screen, which is done primarily to reinforce how well the pros maintain their posture.
The first swing we were shown to demonstrate the system was Tiger in his prime at the Masters. When you study a swing, the first thing you do is draw two lines – one along the spine and a vertical behind their behind. Then you draw a circle around the head. This tells you how well a player holds their form.
The instructor did this with Tiger’s swing … and pushed play.
Tiger tore into the golf ball and the video stopped just past impact. He hadn’t moved a micron within the circle or off his lines.
The instructor turned to the class and asked, “So what was there to fix?”
Being an instructor and a student of the game, Michael Flanagan studies golf swings the way Ron Jaworski studies quarterbacks. He has studied players past and present and can tell you exactly what makes a player’s swing his swing … in great detail. For instance, he can tell you, and show you, the 15 things that define Ernie El’s golf swing.
He’s analyzed swings for decades now – Hogan to Weiskopf to Woods – and is something of a swing Yoda. When he tells you something about a swing, it’s the truth. Whether you chose to believe or not is up to you. When he’s teaching you, his bluntness comes at you like a crowbar, but a bruised ego is a necessary part of the process when you’re trying to find the elusive greatness in your golf swing.
So what does Flanagan see when he looks at Tiger? A fundamentally flawed player who used to be the avatar of swing perfection.
“From a technical standpoint, the biggest issue he has is in his backswing. He lowers his head, which we call bobbing. When he swings, he’s got to pop up to clear. If he could just stay level, he’d be fine.”
And that’s it?
“Yes. He’s just got to stay level in the backswing, no matter what pattern he’s using.”
Wow. He could make that fix in the morning and win a major in the afternoon.
“Then he needs to just get out of his own way and let it happen. I’m telling you, he’s close.”
Unbeknownst to Mike, while he was teaching class, Tiger had reeled off his first four-birdie binge in nearly two years at the Quicken Loans National in Washington, D.C.
When you’re trying to figure out the state of Tiger’s game by listening to him talking, it gets confusing. But it turns out, it isn’t so much about reading between the lines with Tiger as it is speaking Tiger-ese. Not surprisingly, Mike speaks Tiger.
Here’s a Tiger term: Patterns. Explain.
“What he really means is technique. Great athletes, like Tiger, feel they can adapt to any swing technique, which he calls patterns. He’s got his patterns mixed up. And you can’t mix and match. You’ve got to be committed to one belief.”
Then Mike begins to deconstruct Tiger through his coaches and you see what he means. In basics, the philosophies of his four professional coaches are the four swings he’s tried on tour, three of which he’s won with, two of which had him on pace to be the greatest player of all time.
Those swing “patterns” conflict. It’s like speaking English, French, Chinese and Arabic. Trying to speak them all at once would be communication chaos. Even two at would make tongue-tied, or swing-tied in Tiger’s case.
“And I think Sean Foley (Tiger’s third teacher) was really trying to get him to swing around his limitation (his knee),” Flanagan says. “But there are a lot different ways to swing the golf club. The method employed is of no significance as long as it’s repetitive.”
So Tiger is having trouble scrubbing his swing hard drive? His formula for success is just rinse, swing, repeat?
He’s that close?
After a recent round where he spent another day moonwalking the leaderboard instead of charging up it, Tiger mentioned that he needed to check his “spin rate.”
This had the heads of the largely golf ignorant mainstream media spinning.
“His what?!?!?!?” was the outcry.
Those who know the teaching side of the game recognize this as TrackMan talk. TrackMan is the revolutionary swing tracking system that has literally changed the game in the last five years by being able to detect things imperceivable to the human eye, such as face angle at impact. (My favorite TrackMan term is Smash Factor – a number that quantifies centerdness of contact and velocity.)
Tiger is talking about a stat that, among other things, tells you how far your shot is offline. High spin means low fairways hit. Get it?
Which brings us to our next Tiger topic, which is him saying he can’t take his game from the range, where he’s rumored to strike it beautifully, to the course.
Mike has seen this before. It’s the difference between range mentality and game mentality.
“He’s not letting it happen on the course. He’s trying to make it happen. On the course, he’s thinking about mechanics, not his target, which is the course. He’s ball-bound.”
So does Tiger need to play more or practice more to get it back?
“I think you should practice as much as you play and play as much as you practice. But he needs to play more and get back in the heat of the competition. “
Oh, and lose his coach.
“Tiger knows enough now that he doesn’t need a coach. He knows more about the golf swing than most instructors do because he’s won at all levels, no matter what swing technique he’s used.”
Speaking of winning, Tiger now hasn’t won a major since the U.S. Open at Torrey in 2008, where he famously won a playoff with Rocco Mediate while playing on a broken leg.
So the last time Tiger played truly healthy is more than seven years ago. We might just be seeing it again now.
“Health is important to a golfer. You’ve got to be physically strong to play this game. Look how much they walk. They’re on their feet all day playing and practicing.”
If Tiger’s truly health, Mike still trusts the talent.
“How many guys have won on a broken leg?”
In fact, Mike was a believer for the British. In case you didn’t hear, that didn’t go well.
But maybe there’s hope for the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in two weeks?
“Most people will think he has no shot. But he’s striking the ball well and just needs to see results. If he gets that driver under control …
“You’ve got to be able to drive it, wedge it and putt it. Tiger has always been able to do those three. But without any one of those three, it makes it difficult to play the game … for any player.”
Mike is keeping the faith Tiger will find his driver. Yes, he’s predicting a comeback.
“He will be back because of his work ethic. He’s dedicated to the game. He stills loves it and stills wants to excel. And he still wants to win majors.”
Tiger’s decline has denied the sports world – not just golf – the greatest sports storyline of our lives – Tiger surpassing Jack’s 18 majors. As we all know, he’s been stuck on 14 since Torrey. Mike doesn’t believe he’ll stay stuck.
“He can still win golf tournaments, including majors.”
What stands against him, even if he returns to his peak, is his age and the field … and time.
“He’s 39, and he’s past his prime. But with is experience, which is worth a lot, he can still get it done. Hey, Jack won at 46. That’s 24 majors away for Tiger.
“He’s still got all the tools in the toolbox. But he’s got to use them all to accomplish it because of all the talent that’s out there on the PGA Tour today. There was nobody close to him when he won the Tiger Slam.”
Now there’s Rory, Rickie, Dustin and, of course, Jordan.
“He inspired those guys and now he’s got to compete against them. But I think he can.
“Golf is the power game, the short game, the putting game, mental game and the course management game. He’s got to use them all.”
And if he does …
“He can win a major and even more than one.”
While Tiger’s victories have gone away, his galleries have not. Mike finds this fascinating … and telling.
“Everybody’s waiting for him to show up. They want to see it one more time because it was so unbelievable when he was doing it.”
So there’s a chance Tiger could be standing on the tee with history on deck at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2021?
In the days following the 115th U.S. Open, the criticism of Chambers Bay has largely died down, but the throttling of Fox has not, and with good reason.
While there’s no guarantee of another major at Chambers, Fox is contractually capable of sabotaging these things for another 11 years (Tiger will be 51 and probably still stuck on 14 majors).
Fox is a football network clearly out of its depth covering golf. They produced a clueless, lifeless broadcast that did a complete disservice to a major that gave them only everything you could ever want in a golf tournament.
We won’t waste space repeating the rightly deserved criticisms here, but the whole thing got the blog thinking about the state of golf TV broadcasts in general and here’s why:
Fox promised to break the golf broadcast mold and instead took it to the kiln and had it re-fired. How much of that was dictated by the USGA, I don’t know, but that’s of no concern here. The lack of imagination and innovation, and let’s break it down further – effort – was where a lot of the ire should be directed, but it also speaks to a larger point: There’s a stultifying lack of creativity around the game right now and in particular in golf broadcasts, which have changed how much again this century?
Maybe the networks became lazy over the past 15 years from simply having to point a camera at Tiger and pray that he made the weekend, but golf broadcasts on the whole have progressed about as far as newspapers in that time, meaning they haven’t.
Fox’s playbook seemed to be to hire Holly Sanders, point a camera at her, and the course, and pray. We see how well that worked.
As followers of the blog know, we don’t take this tone often, but we come not to denigrate but rather to be the Golf TV Think Thank Fox had two years to visit and didn’t. (Oh wait, they shaded the greens; my bad.)
What follows is a list of a few things Fox could’ve tried if it actually cared about progressing the golf broadcast model. What’s odd is that some of these come straight from the football broadcasts Fox knows well. Such as …
Mike up a player – How has this not happened? Well, we know why it didn’t happen when a certain would-be-sailor was world No. 1, but then don’t stream them live. You revisit snippets like they do with the NFL players. Is there a reason we can’t get a wire on Jordan Spieth, who is an extraordinarily and unusually verbally expressive player on the course? He talks through an entire shot process out loud with his caddie. Don’t catch random bits. Give him a mike and capture the whole thing and thereby let fans into the game, just like it does in the NFL. And if you can’t mike a player for some reason, how about a caddie?
Seriously, how has this not been done, especially in a sport perceived as mostly having generic humanoids as players? Someone with a personality and media saavy, like Pat Perez, for instance, should jump at the chance to do this.
Player profiles – For the broadcast, this is two-fold, seeing as they eschewed any attempt to profile profiles (because Jordan Spieth is a household name already, right?) and introduce them to the uninitiated, but I more mean capturing them in a graphic box like they would with an NFL QB. Example:
Tim Tebow, Philadelphia Eagles Strengths
Everything else, particularly if it involves throwing anything with laces
OK, that one is a bit exaggerated in jest, but you could easily do this in golf and give some feel for a player who’s known or unknown to you. If you don’t know the player, as a golfer you can identify to the player type. An attempt:
Jordan Spieth Strengths
Clutch putter – the best on Tour and perhaps one of the best ever.
Unshakable on-course composure
A knack for rising to the challenge in big moments (see: 2015 Masters)
A 21-year-old body doesn’t deliver some of the power of his peers – yet
A Tip To Try
Looks at the hole – not the ball – on short putts
You could capture quirks about players, especially unconventional ones like Bubba Watson, and make them known to average golfers who don’t necessarily have the acumen to catch some of this stuff.
Build a replica green complex and teach a little – Chambers Bay has the on-course footprint of a small nation state. They could’ve easily found room, and you know they had the budget, to build a 19th hole for TV purposes only that could’ve served as a place to teach. Recreate some of those crazy lies and show how they were, or could’ve been, played. On the whole, golf broadcasts teach very little in relation to what they could be doing.
You don’t want it to break up the flow of the action, but when the tournament field is in neutral – as it was for long stretches at Chambers – you’d have time to do this instead of show a parade of bogey putts.
The more golf I play the more I’m reminded how much the general public doesn’t know about the game. TV is the best vehicle for it, but they have to be committed to it. Instead, Fox committed to nothing.
Document the building of Chambers Bay – The appeal of the tourney was largely the new venue, something we rarely see in a major, much less in such a break from tradition as Chambers Bay was with the U.S. Open’s traditional style of play. Having famed architect Gil Hanse on to do some course commentary was a nice thought, but not nearly enough. Something closer to the exemplary document the Golf Channel did could’ve been produced and parsed into something akin to ESPN’s 30 for 30 shorts and doled out over lulls in the action. That the course turned into such a story, which was totally predictable, only makes this even more of an oversight.
Send Joe Buck to the bench and go to the pen – Monotone Joe would’ve been great for a chess match or a bingo tournament, but not the U.S. Open. His lack of emotion, enthusiasm and any ability to set up his golf comrades, who were a JV team themselves, was a killer. (To that end, Jay Delsing? Jay Delsing? Does Jay Delsing even want to listen to Jay Delsing cover the U.S. Open?)
When you turn on ESPN for the British, you get a certain golf giddiness in the voices of Mike Tirico or say Scott Van Pelt, because they’re genuinely excited to be there. Golfers connect to that passion and are just the same turned off by a lack thereof. Buck should’ve been allowed to stay home and re-laminate his St. Louis Cardinals baseball card collection if he couldn’t get up for the big game.
Not going to speculate on replacements, but Fox has a year to figure it out. Make this priority No. 1.
Social media, anyone? – On the whole, I’m not a huge fan of Twitter/TV trend (sorry, Twitter), but I’d make an exception for golf broadcasts, which currently do none of this. I mostly don’t like that Twitter is used as a vehicle for easy sensationalism in a lot of other sports, but golf has many thought contributors who add much to the discussion and context while watching tournaments. I know because I follow these people.
It would’ve been only too easy to turn on Twitter during the Tiger-tastrophe, but I’d rather see it used to highlight great play and contribute to greater understanding of the game, but a little snark might not be a bad thing for comic relief in a sport that can always use a little. Speaking of which …
Anyone have Will Ferrell’s number? – I’m not trying to bring the Dennis Miller/MNF disaster to golf, but the game could use a lighter side along the lines of what David Feherty provides. Ferrell cut some legitimately funny short clips for Pinehurst last year (Will Ferrell predicts the British Open: “The French.”), showing a passion and interest in the game.
If you’re truly getting outside the box, why would you not try something like this? For example, Will Ferrell riffing on fescue. You wouldn’t have watched that? Really? You don’t want to make a mockery, but a laugh track certainly beats dead air or a broadcast that’s simply flat as Fox’s was.
Clearly handing Fox a 10-year deal for the Open was a major mistake. They’ve got a chance in 2016 at Oakmont to prove it wasn’t. I suggest they get busy – now.
Editor’s note:This is an expanded version of my piece in the June issue of Southland Golf.
Tiger Woods won here. Gary Adams tested some of the first TaylorMade clubs here – and the metalwood made its PGA Tour debut here. Richard Nixon and Jackie Kennedy stayed here.
Yes, Omni La Costa Resort and Spa has packed a lot into its first 50 years. As it celebrates its milestone anniversary this year, the challenge now is to balance a prestigious past with a progressive future.
The first steps toward that future were actually taken 10 years ago when La Costa embarked on a $50 million renovation that included a new spa, two new restaurants and layout tweaks to its two championship golf courses.
The renovation was completed two years ago when the Legends (South) Course re-opened. New Director of Golf Pat Miller arrived shortly after and discovered a resort with a balance of new sparkle and classic charm.
“A lot of times new owners want to change things, but I give a lot of credit to past owners that so much has stayed the same,” he says. “La Costa has largely stood the test of time. There’s a nice balance now been what has worked in the past and what’s new.”
On the golf side, what’s most recently new is an experience now weighted more toward player/game development and improvement. Among other things, a Cobra Golf Tour truck – nicknamed The Snake Pit – is on the range to provide custom fittings, and La Costa has established The Golf Performance Institute (GPI), a comprehensive training center meant to enhance the golf lifestyle.
“It’s now more of an overall experience here than just a place where you show up and tee off,” Miller says.
And the experience after you tee off has significantly evolved with the re-designs of both 18s and continues to, Miller says. He says the Legends Course is still settling into its new greens but is starting to discover its peak shape.
“There’s been a little of a learning curve from a maintenance stand point,” he says. “The greens started out very hard on the Legends, but we’re working to soften them. That side isn’t as its peak yet, but it’s still very good.”
The Legends plays as the tougher of the two sides, especially when an ocean wind is whipping, making the home stretch, the famed “Longest Mile in Golf,” even longer.
“We do get the ocean breeze, and it can make as much as two-clubs difference,” Miller says. “I played it like that the other day and it’ll make you work to get it to the green in regulation.”
The Champions side tends to be a little more welcoming to first-timers and higher handicaps, Miller says, largely because of its wider fairways.
“It’s easier to hit the fairways, but the greens are more protected with bunkers. You’ve got to make a lot of carries,” he says. “Both courses are challenging in their own right.”
In its heyday, professionals from Snead and Nicklaus to Mickelson and Woods competed at La Costa, most notably in the PGA’s annual match play. That relationship ended in 2006.
Miller says La Costa is seeking to re-raise its competitive profile. The course held the SCGA’s state amateur last year and will hold the Gifford Collegiate, a top-tier men’s event hosted by UCLA, this fall.
The course also hosted an industry cup for staffers at Southern California’s major equipment companies.
“We’re always looking for ways to showcase the facility,” Miller says.
And for ways to correct a common misconception about La Costa: That it’s members only.
The course is actually a resort course that rotates member and guest play between the two courses on alternating days.
“We want outside guests, hotel guests and people traveling for business to see what La Costa has to offer,” he says.
What they’ll find, Miller says, are a couple of still classically great golf courses, a whole host of new amenities and an all-encompassing golf experience.
In its 50th anniversary year, Miller still finds the nostalgia factor for La Costa to be a strong one and would like to do more to capitalize on that.
“I love the history of the game and hearing about the great stories of the past and seeing the old photos,” he says. “This is where a lot of golf history happened, and I want to do more with that. That’s part of what makes golf here meaningful and memorable.”
La Costa By The Numbers:
1963 – The year two future owners and developers discovered the property while riding equestrian
1965 – The year La Costa opened as a golf, tennis and resort facility
1969 – The inaugural year of PGA match play at La Costa
2006 – The final year of PGA match play at La Costa
$50 million – Cost of La Costa’s extensive recent renovation
$1.5 million – The cost to build the original golf course in 1964
An iconic champion at the height of his game. A saavy veteran challenger having the week of his life. A major championship golf event, the first in San Diego, played at recently renovated Torrey Pines.
A clutch putt. An 18-hole Monday playoff. A victory for the ages to add to the sports record chase of our lifetimes, secured on what we’d find out later was a broken leg, only enhancing the legacy of perhaps Tiger Woods’ greatest major championship performance.
Yes, the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines had it all. And now it will have a sequel. The United States Golf Association awarded Torrey Pines its long-awaited second U.S. Open, slated for 2021.
We’ll continue to update this information as it becomes available but for now is just a future reminder of the return of one of the PGA Tour’s four major championships to the sunny shores of San Diego.
Total attendance for the 2008 Open was 295,000. The 2021 event should see similar attendance so plan your trip to the Open early.
“Just as San Diego served as home to one of the greatest championships in golf history in 2008, we’re confident that we will once again provide and exciting and dynamic venue for 2021,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer said at the press event to announce the tournament’s return.
Woods will be 45 when the U.S. Open returns to Torrey. His win in 2008 turned Torrey Pines into hallowed ground for golfers. Thousands now annually make the trek to San Diego to play the South Course and experience the mystique of walking in the footsteps of greatness.
Torrey Pines Head Pro Joe DeBock says the boost the 2008 Open gave the course’s legacy and reputation can’t be overstated.
“You can actually play the course where they played the U.S. Open,” DeBock says. “Torrey Pines became very popular just for that fact. The course brings back those memories in a way that just going back to a stadium doesn’t.
“And it was one of the greatest championships ever.”
City officials used words like “passion,” “excitement” and “electricity” to describe the atmosphere they’re hoping to recapture in 2021. That’s a tall order but certainly fun to think about not only for San Diego golfers, but golf fans worldwide.
As is standard for Opens, the course will be closed during the tournament and the week of preparation prior. Fortunately for visiting golfers who want to squeeze in a few rounds during those two weeks, San Diego has abundant options, with nearly 90 courses in the county.
Golfers staying downtown are likely to gravitate to Riverwalk and its 27 holes, harbor-side Coronado Golf Course on Coronado Island, or Balboa Park Golf Course, one of Torrey Pines’ sister San Diego public courses.
Well, we made more blog history this a.m. I just did a re-post for the first time this morning, the day after the blog broke its single-day traffic record.
Amongst the searches yesterday, and all week, has been a post I did after the Farmers Insurance Open this year about Hank Haney’s book, “The Big Miss,” published a few years ago. “The Big Miss” is Haney’s tell-all about his years coaching Tiger, and my post focused on Haney’s predictions about Tiger in majors and his pursuit of Jack’s record.
You can read the post to see how Haney’s predictions have fared, but you will notice at least one that’s quite timely. Based on Tiger’s inability to tame his driver, Haney predicted that if Tiger broke the record it would be via British Opens, the least driver-dependent major or the one that least penalized scattering the ball.
And, low and behold, Tiger had to pull driver yesterday and we all saw how that went. I turned on the Golf Channel last night and watched Tiger get completely dismantled, a day after, of course, some people had him winning the thing. It was a veritable analyst feeding frenzy on Tiger and his game capped by analyst Steve Flesch saying, “Tiger’s a 25-handicap with his driver right now.” Ouch. Not sure Johnny M would’ve even gone there.
But Tiger puts himself on a tee, so to speak, when he does what he does and says he still expects victory despite only one competitive round since his back surgery. The criticism that he should’ve squeezed in another tourney before the British if he really expected to contend is entirely valid and also gets back to a Haney book bullet point – Tiger’s dedication.
You can love Hank or hate him, or certainly quibble with his ethics, but he’s been dead on as Tiger’s Nostradamus. (Ooops, I just gave way the ending of the re-post, but that zero in Tiger’s major record since Torrey in 2008 probably told you that.)
Personally, I wish Haney wouldn’t swing at every pitch when it comes to opportunities to criticize Tiger. Pick your spots. It’s becoming a bit much and seems a little unprofessional and piling on at this point.
Anyway, it isn’t Haney’s name that is coming up in the searches by the way. It’s Sean Foley, Tiger’s only swing coach sink Hank. And the word “ruin” is being with “Foley” in searches.
So that’s my gauge for what people are talking about out and the blog aims to be timely and provide a place to have the debate.
Feel free to leave a comment. I appreciate the feedback and, like in this case, sometimes it can guide the content on the blog.
Enjoy the rest of the British. Rory has been something to behold. Feels like the door is slamming on the Tiger/Phil era this year and especially this week given what Phil did a year ago and how feeble he’s been in 2014. Just saying …
I use the word “revisit” but that’s mostly in reference to myself as I have yet to meet someone in California who actually “visited” Hank Haney’s tell-all about coaching Tiger Woods when it was released prior to the 2012 Masters.
So, for almost all of you, the passages I’m about to quote from the closing chapter of “The Big Miss” will be entirely new. For what I remember reading at the time, that chapter, titled “Adding It Up,” didn’t get any play in the press coverage of the book, which focused almost exclusively on injuries Tiger incurred while being fixated for a time on being a Navy SEAL and training toward that end.
That was the easy tabloid takeaway at the time from a book that actually gave quite a bit of insight into Tiger and his game, enough that you never watch him the same way again after reading it.
The title ends up having multiple meanings and applications in the book, but its literal meaning is “the big miss” the pros fear off the tee. In Tiger’s case, that’s a big duck hook that comes out under pressure and can ruin runs at titles, and, in the bigger picture Tiger is always measured in, majors.
Haney contends in the book that Woods has more or less become scared of his driver and controlling his otherworldly swing speed, thus the club he rode to greatness and domination becoming his nemesis as this point in his career.
That’s why Haney concludes that if Tiger is to break Jack’s record of 18 majors, he’ll have to do it via British Opens, where the courses are hard and fast and more conducive to iron play off the tee.
Eight majors have passed for Tiger since the book was published and so far the predictions in “The Big Miss” are 8-0. I thought about this after the Farmers, when Haney and Tiger got into a media tiff about how much his emphasis on weight training has hampered his swing.
Haney certainly seems to have plenty of appetite left for his issues with Tiger, who now has not won a major since his epic U.S. Open win at Torrey in 2008, leaving him stuck on 14 majors, five short of passing Jack.
As we all recall, Tiger bombed out of the Farmers this year, not even making it to Sunday on a week that many predicted would be just another victory lap at Torrey Pines for Tiger.
That wasn’t the way anyone expected Tiger to start up a new year that followed five wins and another Player of the Year honor in 2013. Momentum seemed to be building again for him and many looked at the Tiger-friendly majors line up and had already predicted, of all things, multiple major victories for him in 2014.
You haven’t heard much from those people since Torrey, but we have heard from Haney, whose book I recently tracked down and partially re-read. Since the Jack vs. Tiger debate is always just bubbling below the surface in golf when it’s not at a full boil, I thought I’d go back and quote a few portions of the book and see how it scores two years out.
I was going to wait to do this prior to the Masters, but Tiger and Hank’s media squabble prompted me to move it up.
So here’s some of what you missed in “The Big Miss” when you missed it the first time.
“The most asked question about Tiger is whether he’ll break Jack’s record for major championships. … Certainly there are questions of health, physique and technique to consider, but to me the most important issue is desire.”
Here’s where Haney picks up his familiar theme of questioning Tiger’s practice habits and it echoes those of people who wondered how much Tiger prepped for Torrey.
“I’ve never known a player who lost his hunger for practice to regain that same level of hunger. Nick Faldo, who in his prime was one of the most diligent and intense workers the game has ever known, said that after he won the 1996 Masters, he lost the drive to practice. … That drop-off marked the end of his career as a champion.”
But then Haney’s tone changes and he seems to forecast Tiger being an exception.
“If Tiger can keep his work ethic strong, he’ll sort out his golf swing. Whatever theory he’s using, he’ll find a way – either in concert with Sean Foley or another teacher or by finding his own accommodation of their theories.”
“However, I don’t think simply solidifying his technique alone will fix his problem with the driver. There is a mental issue there that needs to be addressed, and the odds are against it ever being completely resolved.”
And here’s what mean when I talk about this book changing how you watch Tiger. Remember the British Open last year when Tiger couldn’t keep up with co-leader Lee Westwood on Saturday? Westwood was hitting driver and blowing it by him, while Tiger was settling for 3-wood/5-wood/irons and finding traps and losing ground. According to an SB Nation column from the tourney, Woods didn’t hit his first driver until the 39th hole of the tourney. You can look up the column by Emily Kay that basically reads like it came right out of Haney’s book.
Which brings us to Haney’s British Open theory.
“(The driver issue is) a weakness that tells the most in majors. It’s why, unless he finds some kind of late-career fix with the driver, Tiger’s best chances in majors will come on courses with firm, fast-running fairways that will allow him to him irons off the tee. Of the four majors, the British Open best fits this profile.”
After a strong start, Tiger finished tied for sixth, five shots behind winner Phil Mickelson. His week at Muirfield played into Tiger’s new trend of fading on the weekends of majors.
And it’s largely due to putting. Tiger seems to lose his touch and feel for the greens, which he was already struggling with when Haney wrote his book.
Here’s Hank on Tiger’s putting:
“I’m not sure what to make of Tiger’s putting problems. Technically, he still looks good over the ball and has a textbook stroke. But putting is undone by the smallest and most mysterious of errors, and players rarely improve their putting after their mid-30s. … His putting, both his ability to lag long ones close and his solidness in holing from within six feet, was the foundation of Tiger’s ability to close out victories when he had the lead.”
And save for a few flurries of vintage Tiger putting in 2013, he largely didn’t look like the player we’ve known.
And if you can’t putt in the clutch, you can’t close, which is what leads Haney to doing a little math about how many majors Tiger will likely need to contend in to get five major victories. And this was Hank’s math going into 2012.
“He’s not quite the same closer kind of closer, or not quite as fortunate as he’s been, (so) it could take 15 or more such opportunities. It seems like a tall order for the Tiger who enters 2012.”
And now for the Tiger who enters 2014 staring at basically the same equation, but now at age 38.
Hank closes by playing into an argument Johnny Miller trumpets of how intense the media scrutiny will become if/once Tiger moves off 14 and gets his majors train moving again. And this is also where Haney sees the biggest difference from Nicklaus.
“A final factor to consider it that, whereas Jack Nicklaus’s final few majors were won in a historical vacuum and were essentially padding to his record, Tiger will face ever mounting pressure and scrutiny the closer he gets to No. 19. Assuming the erosions of age, for Tiger, the soon he can get to 18, the better.”
Haney then predicts Tiger needed a major in 2012 to put a restrictor plate on the pressure he’ll feel to go faster to catch Jack as the battle with age and time sets in. Well, we know how that turned out.
Haney closes with a hopeful note on never counting out Tiger’s genius, but then gets back to a central theme of how Tiger’s personal turmoil caused him to lose his mental edge – and caused his biggest miss, a shot at golf history.
“Unlike the Tiger who in his 20s and early 30s was virtually indomitable, today’s Tiger has discovered that in life real disaster lurks. … That realization creates doubt, and in competitive golf doubt is a killer.
“The big miss found its way into his life. If it’s ingrained, primed to emerge at moments of crisis, his march toward golf history is over.”
So there you have it. You can question Hank Haney’s motivations, and especially his ethics, for writing the book, but his observations to date are spot on.
Like I said, I found the book an insightful read, though a bit of a flat one, and it adds perspective to understanding of the greatest sports chase/storyline of our lifetimes and the debate that will never die until Tiger either breaks Jack’s record or hangs up his clubs.
We’ve got a lot of years left on this debate, but the score for “The Big Miss” going into year three post-publish is that it hasn’t missed yet.
Storylines abound as the Tour makes its annual trek across the pond for the third major of the year, the British Open, which begins Thursday at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake.
Just like the course, we don’t allow slow play on the blog, so let’s get right to the tournament preview followed by predictions from our pros.
Tiger And His Healed Back Are Back – After missing the Masters and the U.S. Open while recovering from back surgery, Tiger Woods returns to major championship competition at the site of one of his most revered major wins.
Woods famously rode his iron play to victory at Hoylake in 2006. Hitting just one driver, Woods negotiated a veritable minefield of bunkers without going into a single one to claim the Claret Jug.
Having played just one tournament since his return (he missed the cut), Woods will have to find his form quickly to have a chance to notch his first major victory since the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008.
Regardless of how he plays, him merely teeing it up to resume his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus and the major victories record is sure to at least be worth a bump in the Open’s TV ratings.
With just the British and PGA Championship remaining, Woods is looking at another year of losing ground to history if he can’t get a win.
Can Phil Two-Peat? – A year ago, Mickelson book-ended a win at the Scottish Open with astellar Sunday charge to claim his first victory in the Open championship to get him to three-fourths of career Grand Slam.
Mickelson wasn’t even on the first page of the leaderboard when the day began, but he bolted past the field with a birdie binge to pull out a thrilling win, one of the best in recent major championship history.
Mickelson birdied four of the last six holes, including a legendary 3-wood into the par-5 17th to set up birdie. Mickelson’s caddie, Jim “Bones” McKay would later compare the shot to someone driving it through their garage door from nearly 300 yards out. Mickelson put it to 25 feet.
“Best round I’ve even him play,” McKay told Fox Sports.
A year later, Mickelson has just one top-10 finish and his year mostly consists of being the media darling in the run up to the U.S. Open, where Mickelson finished tied for 28th after battling his putter all week long.
Like everyone else, Mickelson spent the weekend chasing Martin Kaymer in futility as Kaymer dusted the field at Pinehurst, which brings us to …
What Can Kaymer Do For An Encore? – Kaymer’s methodical march to the title at Pinehurst after posting opening 65s was pure dominance.
Can Kaymer do it again? History, of course, says it’s unlikely. The last player to win repeat majors was Padraig Harrington in 2008 (the British and the PGA).
Then again, Kaymer only wins the biggies. His only three Tour wins are the PGA Championship and this year’s U.S. Open and the Players Championship.
Kaymer’s best British finish is T7 in 2010. He finish T32 last year.
By the way, according to Bleacher Report, the U.S. Open-British Open championship has been accomplished four times.
Favorite Son, Justin Rose – A year ago, it was Lee Westwood. This year, Justin Rose, coming off consecutive victories, including the Scottish Open, is the countryman of choice.
To do it, he’ll have to pull out a performance his championship resume doesn’t currently qualify him for. He’s missed five of the last six cuts, including the last two years.
But you never count out the hot guy, especially when he’s proven himself consistently to be among the best ball strikers in the world.
Is the Winning Strategy Tiger 2.0? – Can someone just do what Tiger did in 2006 and basically bag the driver?
Well, the course is reportedly only 54 yards longer than 2006 and actually has fewer bunkers, so it seems plausible.
Will Tiger try it again? Will anyone? Tune in very early tomm. a.m. and we’ll start to find out.
Happy British Open week.
Now the predictions from our pros …
Jay Navarro, Tournament Director, Temecula Creek Inn – Rory McIroy is overdue to win his third major.
Troy Ferguson, Head Professional, Twin Oaks – Miguel Angel Cabrera
Lloyd Porter, Head Professional, Oaks North –I like Justin Rose . Maybe the hottest player in the world. He is from Europe and knows the style of golf.
My second choice is Martin Kaymer – pure golf swing and great putter.
Scott Butler, Tournament Sales Director at Twin Oaks – Adam Scott by six or eight shots – or Tiger in a close one.
Blake Dodson, Director of Golf, Rancho Bernardo Inn – It’s all about crisp irons and great putting in order to capture the Claret Jug. Justin Rose is one of the best long iron players on the planet, while possessing an incredible short game
For such a talented player, though, he has had a poor track record at the Open since his breakthrough performance in 1998. I expect Justin to do what Phil Mickelson did last year; Go back to back, winning the Scottish Open and following it up by winning the Open Championship, bringing an end to the drought of Englishmen to win since Nick Faldo in 1992.
Erik Johnson, General Manager, Encinitas Ranch – Rickie Fowler: Time for him to break through and win a big event. After his showing at the U.S Open, he could finally be ready. Great ball striker with a lot of imagination around the greens.
Martin Kaymer – perfect ball flight for links course (as proven at the US open) and loves to putt around the greens. At 20-1, he’s also a great value!
But, Erik adds, …
I would love to see Tiger win. It would be great for the sport. With his deteriorating health over the last few years, we may not get to see much more of the brilliance that he has spoiled us with for over 16 years.
If you’ve followed the sports news cycle, especially as it’s reported by a certain NFL-manic sports cable channel out of Bristol, you know that you can turn on the TV at most any hour and expect to see a Johnny Manziel story.
Johnny Football’s ability to make headlines is now only rivaled in the sports realm by pal LeBron James and Tiger Woods. The difference, though, is that those two have actually done something recently to merit the coverage. Johnny, a back-up quarterback in Cleveland who according to the company line isn’t going to play this year, does nothing, or does something, or is rumored to have done something and that’s all that necessary for a story and a sensational headline.
In that regard, his career has already reached Tebow-esque proportions without him even haven taken a snap in the NFL. On that note, it really wouldn’t surprise me if a headline appeared that read, “Tebow With More Career NFL Completions Than Manziel; Bad Omen?” Ok, that might be one for the Onion, but the headlines about Manziel these days aren’t far from being that absurd.
Since we’ve got a whole entire month left before NFL training camp, I thought I’d throw a few absurd fake headlines you might see between now and then that aren’t that far from being plausible.
The gist of these is that the kid can’t win. I don’t completely get it, but that’s the media vibe of Manziel Mania so much so that he finally had to retort, “I really don’t think I’ve done anything wrong” to the latest most ridiculous scrap of news that appeared virtually out of thin air.
So in that spirit, and David Letterman style, I offer the top 10 headlines about Johnny Manziel that actually have half a chance of appearing in print.
10. Manziel Eats Donut Hole; What Does He Have Against Full-Sized Pastries?
9. Manziel Visits Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame; Country Music Industry Asks What It Ever Did to Him
8. Manziel Spotted Sitting Between Weight Lifting Reps; Work Ethic Called Into Question
7. Manziel 5 Seconds Late for Team Meeting; Has He Already Lost a Step?
6. ‘Hangover 4’: Manziel Drinks a Beer on 4th of July
5. Bottle Caps in Bottle Cap Alley Dusted for Manziel Fingerprints
4. Manziel Looks at Playing Field; Obviously Still Eyes Starting Job
3. Manziel Gets a Dog; Will Cat People Cancel Season Tickets?
2. Manziel Scolds Dog for Bad Behavior; Johnny Hypocrite?
1. LeBron Not Returning to Cleveland; Manziel to Blame
The Masters, the week that speaks to every golfer’s soul, is here.
The world’s No. 1 player, Tiger Woods, not being in the field due to back surgery has left the tournament without a clear favorite.
While a Tiger-less Masters is a buzz kill for some, true golf fans will tune in regardless to see who slips on the coveted green jacket this year.
Some of the professionals at JC Golf sized up the field this week and dared to predict a winner. You’ll find their picks and rationale below, but feel free to add your favorite in the comments.
Enjoy the Masters, and we look forward to you resuming your regularly scheduled golf season with us after.
Erik Johnson, General Manager, Encinitas Ranch
Pick: Harris English.
Why: “He’s my dark horse pick. He’s a Georgia boy. He’s been on a really good run over the last year and a half or so. He’s very confident. He changed every club in his bag going into this season and he hasn’t seen a fall off, which I think is amazing.
“He even changed his putter after he won two or three times with it. That just speaks to his confidence.”
Blake Dodson, Director of Golf, Rancho Bernardo Inn
Pick: Angel Cabrera
Why: “After losing the playoff to Adam Scott in 2013, it has been forgotten how clutch Cabrera was down the stretch. Angel is in the middle of the 18th fairway when Adam Scott rolls in a 15-footer for birdie to take a one-stroke lead. And the Augusta crowd erupts with a Sunday roar!
“Imagine watching that scene unfold in front of you.
“Cabrera, in the middle of the 18th fairway, once tied, is now watching Scott celebrate the lead. After the green clears, in a heavy downpour, Cabrera stays in the moment and sticks his approach shot to two feet, forcing the playoff. This type of clutch performance wins major championships and should not be overlooked. Angel Cabrera is my 2014 Masters pick.”
Troy Ferguson, Head Professional, Twin Oaks
Pick: Graham DeLaet
Why: “Go Canada!” (Troy is from Alberta; Graham is from near Saskatchewan.)
Eric Jeska, Director of Golf, Twin Oaks
Pick: Pat Perez
Why: “He’s a San Diego boy, and nobody else will pick him. Then I can celebrate by myself after he wins.”
Paul Miernicki, Director of Instruction, Twin Oaks
Pick: Matt Kuchar
Why: “He’s the hot guy right now. He should’ve won the last two tournaments. He was just two bad swings away. He’s still won a million dollars more than me the past two weeks. My money’s on him.”
Note: Paul’s second choice is Jason Day.
Lloyd Porter, Head Professional, Oaks North & Reidy Creek
Pick: Charl Schwartzel
Why: “He has been in the hunt before, he has good experience at Augusta (2011 champion), and he’s a great putter.”
Curtis Rowe, Director of Golf, Temecula Creek Inn
Pick: Sergio Garcia
Why: “I think he’s due to win a major, and he’s a great player, good enough to a major. And everybody hates Sergio. I’ll go against the haters.”