by Jeff Skinner
We got to see some great golf this week at St. Andrews but that’s the norm for The Old Course. I could watch golf on the Old Course forever and not tire of it. Heck, I could just watch the course with no golfers on it and be just as mesmerized. Even though “King Louie” took all the suspense out of the final round there was still plenty of excitement around The Old Course. Rory’s 63, the wind, the rain, the Road Hole eating the players alive, Miguel’s trick shot off the wall, McDowell’s shot off the stick at 18, Tom Watson’s goodbye and Louie’s steady play were the moments I’ll remember most. There was also something at this Open that we have rarely seen before. For one of the few times in his career, maybe his life for all I know, Tiger Woods doubted himself.
Say what you will about the world’s number one, and we all do, but self-doubt is a trait rarely displayed by Tiger. Even in his worst days on and off the course he always keeps up an air of bravado and confidence, some may even call it arrogance. He was anything but confident this week.
Tiger isn’t afraid to tailor his game to a certain style of play. He has won hitting driver on every hole and he has won using irons off tees to stay out of trouble. He’ll pop a 2 iron or his five wood or another specialty club in his bag if he thinks he needs it. One club he never tinkered with was his putter. That changed this week.
Tiger elected to bench his Scotty Cameron putter (used in 13 of 14 major wins) for a new Nike putter. His explanation was that on slower greens he wanted a club that got the ball moving faster so he wouldn’t have to adjust his tempo as much. He thought the Nike gave him a better chance of putting the huge St. Andrews greens than his old Scotty Cameron.
It didn’t work out that way. He changed back to his old putter for the final round. So what’s the big deal? He only made a little club switch, players do it all the time. Wrong, Tiger never would consider swapping putters before.
It’s a sign that Woods is even more frustrated and confused than we thought. We all know it’s been a tough year and season for Woods. He has many distractions that obviously have affected his golf game. His swing may or may not need fine tuning, depending on which talking head you listen to. But to me this is the biggest sign that he is so confused about his golf game that he is willing to try anything.
To paraphrase an old golf saying “it’s not the arrow it’s the archer.” Tiger hasn’t just lost his swing, swing coach and his ability to put the ball anywhere he wants. He has lost his confidence with the flat stick. That was Tiger’s most important part of his game. He could sink a putt from anywhere. We all have seen it over and over again. Now he has even lost confidence in his most reliable club.
Tiger has played in seven tournaments, including three majors so far this season and has no wins. His last major win was the 2008 U.S Open. He has one more chance at a major this year and he looks as unsure of himself on the course as he ever has. If he is to salvage his season a PGA Championship win is the only way.
Undoubtedly, Tiger will be trying his hardest to regain his game and that should start with his putter. That’s the easy thing to do: go with the club that won you all those tournaments. That’s only part of his troubles. Tiger still needs to do is get his head on straight. That’s his toughest challenge yet.