When there are tournaments happening around the world and there’s great golf to watch on The Golf Channel, I always look for something in which golfers can relate. This weekend had lots to offer! My twitter feed was buzzing during and after the Waste Management Phoenix Open. If you watched any golf this past weekend and you are on any form of social media, then you know that the “Trend de La Trend” was all about Tiger.
The much-anticipated return of the former number one player in the world had everyone expecting to see the Tiger of old. The talk on the street was that all was going as planned with his swing and he was excited to get back into the ring. So of course, the expectations were of better tee shots, more greens in regulation and if not, there’s the extraordinary short game that Tiger was known for. That was the talk anyway. Then the tournament began and Tiger had trouble right from the start. He pulled it together to post a 73 on the first day, but disaster struck on the second and final day of his tournament debut. Six bogeys, 2 double bogeys and a triple bogey marred his scorecard. Where he use to get up and down with ease, he instead launched balls over greens and had low running chips screaming past the hole. His game was out of sorts and some analysts even ventured to say it was “lost.” I have to say, I don’t believe he’s lost or that he’ll never be back at the top of his game. I believe he’ll find his way back to better play, it’ll just take a little more time.
Haven’t we all been here before? I know I have. I can remember it like it was yesterday and it was a long time ago! I had started working with a new instructor about 2 months prior to a tournament. We had made a few tweaks to my swing in order to give me better ball control off the tee and to improve my overall delivery of the club head at impact. These were great changes for the long-term and would definitely help me hit more fairways and greens. At the time, my goal was to play on the LPGA Tour so long-term gains were key. I was a dedicated practicer and things were coming along rather quickly. I was seeing my teacher, George Kelnhofer, every week and we were making great strides. I had signed up for an event a few months before and although we were working on some changes, the thought of canceling was totally out of the question. I was going! Things were going so well at the range, why wouldn’t I go? It was going to be awesome! I might even win the thing!
Like Tiger prior to the WM Phoenix Open, I had hit a gazillion golf balls and had spent hours working on it at the range. I mixed in 9 and 18 hole rounds here and there but most of my time was dedicated to working on the swing. The swing felt great. I was crushing it on the range and the practice round I had played a week before the event went pretty well. I marked up my yardage book, took notes on target lines, marked up the details for the greens…I was ready to go low! Then I stepped up on the first tee the day of the event. With my pre-shot routine in tact, I eyed my target, stepped up to the ball and proceeded to launch a bomb of a drive that after about 150 yards, curved wildly left into someplace other than the center of the fairway. I was shocked! How could this be? I punched out for the second shot, missed the green for the third, did something else for the fourth and finally walked off with a double bogey. The next few holes weren’t much better. I was spraying it everywhere. By the time I arrived on the fifth tee box, I was shaken to the core. Nothing was working. I thought, “This is insane! I had been hitting it great for the past few weeks…how is this possible?” I tried to think about the things we had worked in hopes that somehow it would right the ship. It didn’t. It felt like the ship was taking on water and on the verge of sinking! On that particular day, my putting and short game kept the whole thing from going under. When I saw George a few days later he was surprised I had gone ahead and played.
He knew I hadn’t had enough “play” time with the new changes in place. It was clear that we were headed in the right direction with my swing changes given my driving range results. I just hadn’t had enough time on the course in a “real game” environment for the changes to hold up as they weren’t fully engrained enough to do so.
In my opinion, this is where Tiger is right now. He’s had success in practice, believes in his coach and the changes they are making but hasn’t spent enough time in a competitive environment for his new skills to hold up. It’s just a matter of time before they do. If there is a takeaway here it’s the importance of incorporating pressure and stress more successfully while practicing. The practice and play environments have to sync up in order for the brain to associate good shots with the new technique. The more you practice like you play, the better you get at playing the game of golf.
I’d like to thank Tiger and the social media trend for the topic and the walk down memory lane! If there weren’t so much snow on the ground, I’d go to the range right now, get a small bucket and picture that first hole once again…then I’d crush a drive right down the center of it! #practicelikeyouplay!