Tiger Woods: Knowing How to Miss It

Geez, how many times have we heard that old truism that Tour pros are always looking to see “where to miss it?” A million?

And what do we do about it? We look at the reciprocal. We look at the danger and say, “I don’t want to miss it there.” But what that does is put fear in the shot, there’s danger to be avoided. So rather than swinging with freedom, we swing in avoidance. It produces a tension-induced swing move that frequently doesn’t end well.

Tiger does two things, (1) he looks to where he can miss it, and (2) he plays aggressively or conservatively depending on how he’s swinging on the range and as the round unfolds. 

In the aftermath of Saturday’s round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at the Firestone Country Club in Toledo, Ohio, he was very happy with the work he had done to reduce his total score to 15-under. But better yet, to maintain his lead when he wasn’t playing as well as he did the day before:

Yeah, I feel pretty good.  You know, today was a day that I didn’t quite have it, but I scored.  And that’s the name of the game is posting a number, and I did today.  Grinded my way around that golf course today.  It was playing a little blustery.

As smooth as yesterday was, as difficult as today was, it’s just one of those things where I was just trying to build on my lead somehow, just trying to build on it, and for most of the day I was doing that.  Ended up being a dead push for the day, but that’s not too bad, either.

This whole topic of playing aggressively or conservatively came up when he was asked if he would play defense on Sunday given that he has a 7-shot lead?

It will all depend on how I feel out there.  I had a nice warm‑up session today.  Starting out my start lines on all my shots were nice and tight, and I felt really good.

As the round progressed, it just got a little bit worse, so I had to play a little more conservatively, and even the shots that — I hit some really pretty bad ones out there, and I was trying to be even more conservative through that stretch, but I was still hitting some bad ones.

I was missing the ball all on the correct angles, and that’s what you have to do on this golf course.  If you’re going to miss it, you’ve got to miss it in the correct spots, and I did that today.

Englishman, Chris Wood, was in Tiger’s threesome along with Keegan Bradley, the defending champion. Wood, playing with Tiger for the first time, held his own at Even par. Bradley was 1-over. Wood talked about his experience:

Yeah, it was probably better than I could have hoped for to be honest.  Yeah, totally an experience for me, that.  Just the first tee, the noise.  He’s chipped in on 13, I think.  I’ve never heard a noise quite so loud on the golf course.  But loved every minute.  Chatted away a little bit, and after three or four holes I felt a lot more settled than I thought I might.

Just guessing, but that was probably because, thrust into the brightest light in golf, he was initially playing to prove that he belonged in that last group. He birdied 2 and 3 before he made the bogey he was afraid he was going to make on 4. Once that happened and he was still 1-under, he could relax. And he did, with straight pars all the way to the tough 18th, which he bogeyed. Not bad for his first exposure to all of that.

It was also an eye-opening experience:

Well, if he misses the green or he’s out of position, it’s absolute master class in damage limitation.  Yeah, I mean, he’s nearly holed out from the back of the green on 14 for a par.  Yeah, I learnt a lot from him scoring, really.

It wasn’t so much course management as it was his amazing short game:

No, just around the greens, his up‑and‑downs, his short game, his scrambling.  Like I said, any time he was out of position, he’s either going to hole it or get up‑and‑down.  Yeah, I think I can look at that and feel like I can focus a lot of my time on that sort of area.

This is one of the reasons that so many of the LPGA Tour players have gotten so good with their short games, particularly the players in the Orlando area. They get more opportunities to play or practice with PGA Tour players and see just what a great short game looks like and the practice that goes into it. Annika Sorenstam said that was one of the biggest takeaways from her exposure to the men and she became quite good in her own right.

And finally, asked how Tiger was going to approach his final round, he revealed that his game plan begins with what the weather is going to do:

Just go out there and execute my game plan.  Whatever game plan I’m going to implement tomorrow, just go execute it.  It all starts with what the weather is doing, and then I build it from there, and we’ll see what I do tomorrow.

It’s going to be a beautiful, sunny day in Toledo. The forecast is for a high of 75 degrees, winds 10-15 mph out of the NNW with little chance of rain.

Which means that we will get to see Tiger Woods in full flight. At the rate things are going, it should be a daylong victory lap.

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