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Tiger in search of that California swing

When you invite half a dozen experts to analyse and critique a golf swing, it's not unreasonable to expect a range of opinion and, well, spark off something of a debate - after all, there's nothing most pros and media-savvy commentators like better than to tee-up their spiel and show off their knowledge.

Not so, it seems, when the golf swing at the centre of that attention belongs to one Tiger Woods. For our cover story this issue, I sounded out opinion from a number of well-known faces, starting with Gi regulars Denis Pugh, Simon Holmes, Andrew Park and Jonathan Yarwood. To that handy foursome I then added John Novosel, co-author of the illuminating book Tour Tempo, Master PGA professional and Ben Hogan aficionado Luther Blacklock, and James Day, PGA member and co-founder of Urban Golf, just down the road from our offices here in London.

Rather as if all reading from the same manifesto, their collective analysis of Tiger's technique since returning from a five-month self-imposed exile hones in on a handful of related and – so it would seem – glaringly obvious flaws to the trained eye. All of which does make you wonder how and why the world's greatest golfing talent allowed his swing to become the subject of what we might call the 'Haney Project'.

Golf International June 2010 issue

Getting his retaliation in first (via text message, too – Tiger would surely have loved that!), Hank Haney resigned his post the week we put this magazine to bed. And in his own defence – and as he pointed out in response to some of Johnny Miller's observations during coverage of the TPC at Sawgrass – under his watch, from 2003 onwards, Tiger won six major titles. You can't argue with that. But with hindsight, you can legitimately question some of Tiger's performances over the same period – query why it is that the best player in the world does not have a'go-to' shot off the tee, for starters?

As Denis Pugh points out in his narrative, the thing people tend to forget about Tiger is that he has the toughest mind-set in golf, is one of the game's strongest athletes, the smartest of strategists and owns probably the most accomplished short-game ever seen. In other words, he wins major titles in spite of his long game, not because of it.

That Tiger's finest ball-striking occurred during the Butch Harmon era is another area of consensus throughout the analysis you'll find inside. Tiger hooked up with Harmon as an amateur, the elder statesman of the game – by all accounts – proving as valuable a friend and mentor as he undoubtedly was effective as a coach. And yet to observe Tiger's return to golf over these last few weeks has only highlighted the void that was created when they parted company at the back end of 2002. It has been fascinating to study Tiger's rehabilitation as a tournament golfer, but at the same time very sad to observe a player so desperate to reaffirm his status in the one aspect of his life he always believed he could control only to discover that, too, had deserted him.

All we can hope for is that the golfer who has appeared so lost and alone leaving the TPC at Sawgrass – a complete stranger to the swing that earned him his place in his sport – emerges in time for the US Open at Pebble Beach injury-free and with some positive direction both on and off the golf course. Who knows, perhaps he's at home watching the re-runs as I type this. Given the sensational story that is Tiger's life and career to date, who would bet against him finding his inspiration in Monterey?

Enjoy the issue.

June 2010

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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