Wells Fargo Championship Update

The biggest news coming out of Friday’s second round at the Wells Fargo Championship — with apologies to the leaders — is that Tiger Woods missed the cut. He shot even par for the two days and the cut was at 1-under:

The entire week I didn’t play the par 5s well. Today I made four pars. You just can’t do that, especially when all of them are reachable with irons. I didn’t take care of the par 5s, missed a couple other little short ones for birdie, and consequently got no momentum during the round.

That was the “what happened” quote, but the best quote from a mastery point of view was this one when asked if he was “playing with his swing a little bit:”

Well, it all has to do with my setup. If I get over the golf ball and I feel uncomfortable, I hit it great. It’s just that I get out there and I want to get comfortable, and I follow my old stuff, and I hit it awful. All the shots I got uncomfortable on, I just said, I’m going to get really uncomfortable and make it feel as bad as it possibly could, I striped it. I know what I need to do, it’s just I need more reps doing it.

By “uncomfortable” he’s alluding to the strange sensations you get when you make a swing change. You know you’re reverting to what you had been doing if the new awkwardness vanishes too quickly. And so here he’s talking about forcing that new uncomfortable feeling to affirm that he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing. As he explained:

Well, I just know that — because obviously we’ve changed a bunch of different things, and every now and again I fall into the same stuff, old stuff. That doesn’t work with a combo platter of old and new.

And for the umpteenth time, he explained why the process is taking so long:

If you think about it, with Butch it took me two years and with Hank it took me almost two years before old patterns are out. I played really well at the ’97 Masters, and I didn’t really do anything until May of ’99. So it takes time to get rid of old patterns. It takes hundreds of thousands if not millions of golf balls, but eventually it comes around. I’ve had my share of successes, and I know it’s coming.

The other thing he always reminds us of is that we can’t count the time with Foley when he was injured but couldn’t play or practice. So it will be a while longer it seems.

Having said that, what he’s doing seems to be an anathema to what top players do when they play their best; they’re not thinking about their swings, they’re thinking about their targets and the shots they want to hit to them.

But I asked him about this when I got a question in at his Match Play gaggle. He had said in response to a previous question that he thinks about his swing all the time. So I asked him when he plays or just when he’s practicing:

No, when I play.  Different shots require different feels.  Different shots–certain days it’s easy.  You just go out there and see a shot and hit it.  Other days it’s a little more difficult.  And I think you’ll find that with every player.

I haven’t asked the universe of elite players about this, but the ones I have asked all say that they are target and shot bound, not swing bound. The most interesting was Paige Mackenzie who described feeling handicapped when she can’t see the landing area for her shots because she imagines them, not just to their apex, but all the way to the ground. And then she matches the real shot to imagined one.

The leader of the tournament by one shot is Nick Watney who had been struggling a bit coming in. He’s only had one top 10 and just three top 25s which includes the top 10, a T9 at the Match Play. But he shot a first-round 68 and a sizzling second-round 64.

Well, I think last week was a wake-up call for me [a missed cut in New Orleans], and I’ve worked really hard these five days leading into this event, and I think it just shows I’m making progress. Who knows what’s going to happen this weekend, but I’m really excited for it. I think we’re just — more hard work, and hopefully I’ll be in this position a lot more.

It also helps that he and his wife are staying at the home of his good friend Webb Simpson and his wife who live in Charlotte and very close to Quail Hollow. The running bet in the house is that high score between the two of them has to take out the garbage after dinner.

For his part, Simpson is in 2nd by himself and just one stroke back after shooting 65, 68…and making plans to take the garbage out. The media pointed out that he was playing with a lot of confidence:

Yeah, [my caddie and I are] doing the right stuff. We’re getting better, and that’s all we care about, me and my caddie, so we’re doing the right stuff. Through two days we haven’t made really any mental mistakes, which is what we want ultimately, so I’m pleased.

[My caddie is] a great friend apart from work, and he’s been a great player himself, great caddie, so he’s helped me a ton on and off the course this last year and a half. What he brings to the table is pretty intangible.

Ben Crane, shooting the field’s other 64, is T3 at 10 under with Stewart Cinq, John Senden and D.A. Points. Crane was asked if he was conscious of how great he was playing when it was happening or was he “just playing:”

You’re just playing. At the end of the day if you can make yourself shoot 62 or 64 or whatever, you can do it every day. It’s just a matter of just relaxing, trusting, and obviously your swing and your putting is in pretty good shape. You try just to let it go and not think about it too much, not get in your own way. But it actually doesn’t feel that much different from an even-par round. Just a few putts drop and things seem to just open up. My goal is to keep focusing on scripture. I go back and forth with scripture, and that just gives me a great sense of peace. And then playing well on top of that just made it just a special day.

Other Notables

Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler are six shots back at 6-under.

Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood made the cut on the number at 1-under.

Keegan Bradley missed the cut by three.

Anthony Kim, the subject of Friday’s post, withdrew after the 1st round with a wrist injury.

Saturday’s weather forecast is still for a 50% chance of scattered thunderstorms, but as of this writing, rain is now out of the forecast for Sunday.

The Golf Channel, 1:00 PM Eastern, and CBS, 3:00 Eastern.

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