Everyone is asking will Tiger come back, will he win, will he win a major, is his domination over, how are his swing changes going?
Here are a few obsevations and thoughts after watching him in Abu Dhabi, his first tournament of 2012 and really getting up close and filming him on the course and on the range for the week.
He is certainly gaining control of his new swing, we can all see that. A few technical observations are that he starts the club back slightly more closed, which means more toe down than he used to. It’s almost a reversal of what he did before with Hank Haney, he has a steeper shoulder turn on the backswing and is working the club up on a slightly steeper plane. It’s an inward hand path, shaft outside his hands as he starts back, and a steeper shaft angle on the backswing. He is fading the ball ever so slightly, on some shots he is using a lot of upper body rotation and holding off his short and mid irons, also hitting the three wood with a low tracer bullet flight, which is very very impressive!
You have to be strong to swing this way and I hope Tiger’s back and knee hold up during the year.
He still has a lot of power, great imagination around the greens, one thing I have seen in Tiger is a couple of poor pitches from around 70 yds, which he hit a bit heavy and just got on the front edge of the green, I never saw him do this before.
You can see he exaggerates these moves on his practice swing, but when he swings it’s not as radical as this, it’s more a rehearsal of the pattern he is trying to create in his mind and body.
Can he gain control of the driver with this swing? We will have to wait and see. When he really needs a safe shot he is playing a fade. During the last round in Abu Dhabi he missed a lot more fairways and greens, which after watching him on the range before the last round this was very surprising as he looked in complete control of his swing.
At the moment everything looks very controlled and he is bedding the swing in to competetive play, maybe his best form will come in April?
Tiger certainly got the attention of the players on the range, many were sneaking a look while they were hitting balls. Tiger does have a great posture and composure, he walks round the golf course in a slow deliberate way. Certainly when I watch Tiger playing I know I am watching a golfing legend and I cannot forget the amazing shots he has produced throughout his career and all those major wins he has.
He looks at the moment that the flair he has showed throughout his career and his freedom of swing and play is missing, his instinctiveness is not there yet, and this is obviously understandable, maybe we are going to see a more methodical player during this season?
For me the Tiger of previous years was the most exciting player I have ever seen, apart from Seve, and I started watching from the Nicklaus era,1970 onwards, to watch him attacking the course and pulling off amazing shots, fist pumps, birdies, eagles, chip ins, amazing recoveries, playing at Augusta were magic moments, I hope they return, because whatever view you have of TigerWoods the person, the golf world needs Tiger Woods back at his best, taking on the young guns.
When a superstar in sport has problems, for whatever reason, whether physical, technical, or self inflicted, the question is can they return to where they were? Can they return to the pinnacle of their sport, in golf at the moment we have several young golfers who have been winning titles, money lists, majors, they have not experienced defeat against Tiger. They are not Tiger fatigued or battle scarred through consistent losses, hence in the past when he was leading after 54 holes he almost always came out victorious, his competition were beaten before they started.
Now we have many extremely fit, young and very long hitters, they are not mentally beaten golfers, they are not intimidated, they have learnt to win when Tiger was not around, and they cannot wait to beat him when he comes back, to a degree it will make their careers, they are relishing the new challenge ahead.
Tiger is also relishing the challenge of getting back to winning majors and showing everyone that he can return to the pinnacle of golf.
We all will find out if he can come back very soon, and I will be watching him closely at the WGC Matchplay in Tucson in a couple of weeks.
I hope you can feel how excited I am about this 2012 golf season, it could be AMAZING!
David Bown PGA AA Golf Professional
Authorised Golfing Machine Instructor