Tiger Woods: Stays faithful to the mastery process

Tiger Woods remained faithful to the transformation of his swing at The Memorial Tournament on Friday and made the cut on the number. He had to make a 5½-footer on 18 to do it though. That said, he made that putt because he has continued to try to find continuity in his release pattern through the bag:

As we’ve evolved in the release pattern, there’s continuity.  And for some reason I feel like I’m releasing the club and my sand wedge and my putter, and everything is starting to release the same way.  So it’s a familiar feeling.

And I don’t know, for some reason I’m getting over [the incongruency] and feeling pretty good about it.

And he’s having a lot of other good things happening to him now that might not look like it on the face of it. He drove his driver on the par-5 11th so far it went in the creek. He took his drop and then fired his 3-wood at the green — more like blasted it over the green. But he got it up and down for his par:  

All the tee shots, I’ve been kind of hitting them straight right, and then all of a sudden I said I’m going to let this one go.  And of course I hit it in the water.

The 3‑wood, I don’t know how I hit it that far, because I had 267 to the hole and I hit it about 290 into the wind.  I don’t know how I did that. [Since nobody can hit a 3-wood 290 into the wind, it makes you think that it might have been a bad yardage on the sprinkler head or something. But ShotLink had him at 268 hole, 285 carry, so maybe someone actually can.] I’d like to know so I can repeat it going forward.  But that was a pretty sweet up‑and‑down, and it kind of got things going.

But in general, he was displeased with his driver. As a general rule, you want a high launch angle with a low spin rate for optimum distance. But if you increase the spin rate by hitting the ball off-center or with any kind of side spin, distance falls. Tiger has to figure out which one he’s doing:

Obviously displeased with the way I drove it; I didn’t drive it very good again.  I kept spinning the ball.  I have to go fix that.

But he was very happy with his putting. He missed a number of putts that looked good the whole way. The speed was right on with the line off by microns. His putting looked great. And he made that pressure putt on 18 to make the cut.

But the putting was great today.  I had a great feel for the pace.  Even the putts I missed had that kind of “go in” look, and they were right around the hole.

In another example of the truism that the range ain’t the course, he finished up Thursday night on a positive note and that seemed to carry through to Friday morning. But not all the way to the course:

I was very happy [last night] and had a great warmup this morning.  Basically I hit my irons pretty good all day, I just didn’t drive it very good.  Something I need to work on. I kept spinning it.

But as he discussed after Thursday’s round, he knows what he has to do to get it together:

Play more tournaments.  This is my fifth event and this is June.  So obviously I need to play more.  But at least I was able to make those putts, so that’s a positive sign.  Now I just need to put myself in the position where those putts are to win tournaments, not to make cuts.

Even for Tiger, it’s interesting that there’s a difference between a putt to win a tournament and one to make the cut.

He’s also reconciled himself to the fact that the pace of improvement isn’t always as fast as you would want it to be:

We’re making progress.  Progress however slow is still progress, and I’m creeping up on it.  But I need to put a few more pieces together to really, really get it going.

And he’s willing to take the risk of the new swing on each shot rather than capitulating just to get a ball in play. The answer and satisfaction lies at the end of the process and any satisficing in the name of expediency delays that progress. He’s tried that but it doesn’t work:

That’s the pattern.  I can revert back and do what I used to do, no problem, and get it in play.  But the problem is then it brings in the old pattern, so what’s the point of going forward?  That’s the whole idea of going forward, you’ve got to be able to do it on the golf course, even if it’s bad.  Get it out there, feel it, see what it feels like and then we make the adjustments and then we go forward from there.

That’s precisely what I wrote about for Friday’s post, this notion of taking an intellectual swing concept and transforming it into a feel.

He’s also noticed that there’s not that much of an edge between rounds at home with no pressure and rounds in tournaments. The conventional wisdom is that without the pressure, there’s more freedom. But without that pressure at home, there can be a lapse in concentration. You can have a much freedom as possible, but your head has to somehow stay in it too:

I’ve probably hit it better here than I have at home.  At home it’s — it comes and goes.  I get into little hot streaks where I hit it great, and then also periods where I really hit it a lot worse than I do out here.  I think it has a lot to do with concentration, too.

And still he has the patience and discipline to stay in the mastery process:

I feel like today I made some progress from yesterday.  And now I need to go work on it again and I’ll make some progress tomorrow.  And keep doing that and hopefully it will all come together this weekend.  And if not, two weeks from now [at the U.S. Open].

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