Monday, June 23, 2008

U.S. Open Interviews

I sat in on some interviews at the U.S. Open, and heard some interesting things. Concerning Phil’s quadruple bogey on the par five thirteenth…all of the pros were raving about the stellar conditions of the kikuyu fairways, and how the stiff, bristly blades were shaved down tight and provided perfect lies for spinning the ball off the short grass. Phil claimed that his second and third chips to #13 on Saturday weren’t bad shots, but just mental miscues because he didn’t take into account how much they were going to spin. When asked if that was his highest score ever on that hole, he replied, “No, I’ve made a nine on thirteen before…I was only eight years old, but I have had a nine there.”

After Saturday’s round, Tiger confessed that he didn’t warm up well on the range, and that he had a “two-way miss” going. He said he tried to “organize” that into a one-way miss, so at least when he hit it way off-line, he could predict which direction. He wasn’t able to figure it out during the round, and consequently spent the day playing self-described “army golf”…right, left, right, left. On Sunday, when he roped his second shot into the ice plants on #13, Tiger said he was trying to play a high cut into the green. He admitted to hitting the dreaded “double-cross”, trying to hold off his swing through impact but instead completely flipping his wrists over for the hammer-hook. At this point, we all know that most of Tiger’s struggles were the result of a bad knee, a stress fracture in his left shin, and obviously a lot of rust due to lack of practice. But his comments reveal two important truths about the game of golf…

One, that hitting the golf ball like you want to every time is freakin’ impossible! Even Tiger Woods sometimes flails with his swing to the point of having “two-way misses” and “double-crosses” infecting his game! The second truth is that scoring well in golf is all about one thing…getting the ball into the hole as quickly as possible. Tiger proved that last week. Despite being outplayed tee to green all week by dozens of players (including Rocco), Tiger took home the Championship Cup because of his superior short game. He chips well, his scrambling is unmatched, he makes all of his crucial short putts, and he basically gives himself opportunities to recover from every wayward driver or approach. So take heart, all you hopeful hackers…don’t stress over your missed shots (everyone is going to have them). Quit pounding range balls and go practice your short game! That’s where you’re really going to save some strokes.

Since Tiger has made his announcement about more surgery and taking the rest of the year off, you have to wonder how the other TOUR pros are going to respond. We will finally get to see what the major championships would look like without the Tiger factor. Will the big names like Sergio and Phil take advantage of his absence? Can Tiger still win the Fed Ex Cup even if he misses the entire playoffs (just kidding, I think that’s impossible)? I’ll have some more thoughts on a Tiger-less PGA TOUR later, but I’d like to hear yours.

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