Tiger's time off

There’s an interesting headline in the Scotsman: Woods puts family life before Tour duties. In fact, Tiger, who spent much of the year complaining about the length of the PGA Tour schedule, mananged to play four events after that never ending ordeal finally finished. The Scotsman story makes a couple of interesting points, including this:

Not since the brilliance of 1999 had Woods performed so impressively. Long but not always straight off the tee, the truth is the world No 1 rarely puts himself in unplayable positions. Tiger’s brain power always manages to figure out an escape route, no matter how improbable. It’s in the area of course management that Woods believes he’s made the greatest progress.

I don’t know about this “course management” move that Woods apparently made such progress in. Or maybe that’s bang on. After all, Woods was second in overall driving distance, averaging 316 yards off the tee (yep, that’s right), while placing 188th in driving accuracy. So while he didn’t hit many fairways, he did hit it so far that most holes were played with a slightly offline driver and a wedge. But of course, the ball doesn’t travel too far. Much of the article deals with Woods’ personal issues with turning 30. Apparently 30 is “old.” God, I better get my application for the retirement home ready. According to Woods, with age comes maturity and better course management. Which really translates to being able to hit the ball a long way into the rough and then being strong enough to get a sand wedge through that rough in order to get the ball on the green.

“I’m very excited about turning 30. Maybe the best is yet to come because physically you’re not going to change a whole lot in your early to mid-30s, but you benefit from sheer experience, learning how to manage your round.”

Maybe Tiger is just pragmatic and smart, able to accept the changing reality in professional golf and apply himself to it in order to get the best result. That’s my bet. Why is Tiger the best golfer in the world? Well part of it is physical, but he’s also the smartest golfer going. Put the two together and he’s nearly unstoppable. Expect another big year in 2006 when Woods finally feels up to returning to the PGA Tour at the end of January.

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Jeff Lancaster

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