It was tough to watch and in a lot of ways astonishing, but the more I saw the highlights from today’s Phoenix Open the more inspired I became from Tiger’s play.
The thing is, this is an incredibly hard game even when you are just out by yourself. Add swing changes and the world’s eye on you and I can’t imagine what it must be like for Tiger right now. I’ve never been a fan boy of his or anything like that, but always appreciated how effortless he made this game seem. He was the world’s number one player for 13.1 years, which is absolutely incredible when you think about it. He’s a generational player and one of the better ones at that. Roger Federer, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and all the other players Nike has acquired to be their poster people, these players of the game are GREAT. Not just good, not just the best, but fantastic at what they do and achieve.
Then you have the last year for Tiger…
Amazingly, he actually had the longest driver average for the first two days at the Phoenix Open, but could not seem to get a ball up and down or even close.
As much as I possibly can, I understand his pain. In my attempts to improve my game I switched wedges about two months ago. For the entire time trying to adjust to them I kept hitting 3 or 4 fat shots per round that literally didn’t go anywhere and then I would overcompensate and blade it over the green a couple of times. I hadn’t a clue what was going on and kept sticking to the new sticks thinking that I would eventually adjust to them. But, after a long time of fat and thin shots I finally went back to my old wedges and like meeting up with a long lost friend we immediately hit it off again. The last few rounds have been refreshing and inspiring from a short-game perspective. I’m not saying everything was perfect as there is still a good bit of adjustment in going back to my old ones after 2 months away from them, but like revisiting a previous love it’s not nearly as hard as learning someone new’s behaviors and interests.
I know that Tiger is trying to change his short game and I appreciate that as, in my own way, I am changing my swing as well as short game. It doesn’t happen overnight and he’ll get it back no matter what people are saying.
I’m still hard pressed to break 80 right now, but I’ve gone from 1 out of 5 swings feeling “right” to about 3 out of 5. The next step is 4 of 5 and then the new swing is ingrained and what feels natural.
We have to stick through the hard times and remember not to judge people like Tiger on his down round or months as he is just as mortal as the rest of us. The main difference is that he will stick to his process and come out better on the back end. That is what makes someone great.