The Joy of Golf: Woods looks to get to the root of his problems

Joy Chakravarty 08:19 28/08/2014
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Change of approach: Tiger Woods worked with Sean Foley for four years.

By firing coach Sean Foley, Tiger Woods has clearly shown where he stands in what has turned out to be the greatest debate in the game over the last year – is it his swing that is causing a bad back, or is it his back that is causing a bad swing?

With the termination of their four-year relationship, Woods seems to be agreeing with those who feel the swing changes on which both were working on is detrimental to the well-being of his back. Because he has shortened his swing markedly, Woods has to depend on what has been his favourite word over the past few months – ‘explosiveness’ – of his recoiling process to generate the power he delivers to the ball. That is putting enormous pressure on his already-fragile back.

However, nobody should have any doubt that most of Woods’ problems on the golf course is a result of his injuries. Almost like the involuntary movement of the eyelids to protect our eyes, the human body has very strong self-preservation instincts, and it tends to take corrective action subconsciously if it thinks any action would lead to damage.

Almost 18 months after injuring his wrist, Indian golfer Jeev Milkha Singh confessed he would still flinch when hitting shots out of the rough. This, despite knowing that his wrist could withstand the shot.

What is good to know is that Woods seems to be taking precaution on both ends – a change of coach will surely lead to some changes to his swing, and by withdrawing his name as one of the three Ryder Cup wildcards, he will now be able to rest and strengthen his back until he plays his World Challenge event in December.

The question everyone seems to be asking is: who next for Woods? The overwhelming favourite seems to be Butch Harmon, the man who was in-charge when he burst onto the professional scene. But Butch ruled himself out categorically when he told the Golf Channel: “No I would not and he’s not going to call and ask.”

Also, let’s not forget that among others, Butch coaches Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott, and sharing one man between three players who have had a bit of friction between them (Tiger-Phil is well known, while Tiger-Scott has more to do with the Aussie’s caddie) seems outrageous anyway.

There is a growing school of thought which professes that Woods should go alone. There is a feeling that Woods is getting very mechanical with his swing and losing the ‘feel’ factor. That is something only Woods can correct.

The weight of conscience

Hunter Mahan walked away with the trophy at The Barclays, but the story of the tournament really was American Cameron Tringale.

On the Friday before the event, and five days after finishing tied 33rd at the PGA Championship, the 27-year-old called up the PGA of America and got himself disqualified from the tournament.

Tringale was bothered with a putting stroke of his on the 11th hole during the final round of the PGA Championship, not sure whether it should be construed as one. But the incident kept playing on his mind and he decided to get himself disqualified for signing a wrong scorecard.

On the eve of The Barclays, Tringale explained: “The more I thought about it, I didn’t want the way I play this game or my integrity questioned.”

The DQ meant he had to forfeit his $53,000 (Dh194,510) cheque prize money, and the 37 points in the FedEx Cup, which dropped him to No61 going into The Barclays.

And when he finished tied second behind Mahan on Sunday, he was quick to point out that a clear conscience was a big factor in him playing well.

“I just played with peace that surpassed understanding,” he said after the final round. “I just decided to get it behind me. I try to live my life above reproach and it just seemed like the right thing to do. I was able to come out this week with a clear head and play some golf.”

Amazing coincidence

On Sunday, Jamie Donaldson (pictured right) won the Czech Masters on the European Tour, which sealed his automatic place for the Ryder Cup next month, and a few hours later, Hunter Mahan won The Barclays across the Atlantic, whichwould have almost guaranteed him one of the three wildcards for Team USA.

But that’s not the coincidence we are talking about.

These were the two players involved in the bizarre ball-switching episode during the US Open at Pinehurst in June this year. After hitting perfect tee shots into the 18th fairway, the two players approached the balls and hit their second shots, albeit the wrong ones.

Both were penalised two shots, and while Donaldson missed the cut by several shots, Mahan agonisingly missed it by one.

And then, Sunday brought good news for both.

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