Tag Archives: Jack Nicklaus

Inside the Brilliant Mind of Brooks Koepka

Photo from Golf Digest

What makes him tick?  As we approach the final major of the season, my intrigue continues to grow with his amazing success.  He is extraordinary in the big events but rather ordinary in the regular tour stops.  How does he turn on the mental supercharger for the majors?  Few athletes in history have been able to turn it on in big events to the same extent.  Great golfers like Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods demonstrated fantastic ability to concentrate, but their performance was more evenly distributed across all their events.

Sports fans old enough to remember the Hall of Fame running back John Riggins, recall Riggo hated to practice and almost never did.  He was often in the hospital injured during the week, or out carousing and making trouble, but come game day, he could turn on an amazing level of focus and concentration and performed brilliantly.  Football is a sport where you are very dependent on the performance of others.  Golf is not.  Koepka has no offensive line to run behind which makes his majors performances even more remarkable.

In perhaps his greatest book on sports psychology (How Champions Think), Bob Rotella sites “single-mindedness” as the most important key.  The greats demonstrate it time and again and sometimes at the cost of other important aspects in their lives.  Tiger certainly had single-mindedness and learned it from his dad.  Maybe his personal failings later in life were a cry for help due to the strains of single-mindedness at an early age.  Michele Wie’s parents tried to enforce single-mindedness before she was ready and may have ruined a great golf career.

Koepka doesn’t appear to be single-minded at all.  He doesn’t sweat the majors any more than you or I would going to an important meeting at the office.  He does abide by a corny half-baked idea that it’s easier to win the majors because he has fewer opponents that will be in contention for a variety of reasons.  Does that really work; can you trick yourself into performing better by simply believing you are superior?  For example, could your son or daughter excel in an important event like taking the SAT and expect superlative performance by thinking half the other students in the class will choke under the pressure?  There may be some truth to it.

More importantly, is there something we (the average amateur) can adopt from his approach that will help our games?  Think back to a time when you put on a great performance for a big event.  A couple months back, I presented at a professional conference and was rather nervous at the thought of getting up in front of my peers for an hour.  What if I stumbled or said something stupid?  But, I nailed the presentation.  How?  I practiced the heck out of it until I was so sick of it I could do it forwards and backwards.  On a few occasions, I’ve been able to mentally trick myself into performing better on the golf course by playing without any swing thoughts, but that doesn’t sustain for more than a few holes.  The only tried and true method I’ve found is consistent practice, but it’s important to get feedback from someone other than yourself during the practice.  I did that presentation alone and for family members and got constructive feedback that made it better.

So next time you’re on the practice tee or working short game, ask for feedback.  In the best case, get it from a professional instructor.  Learn the right way and practice.

And yes, Brooks Koepka is my pick for the 2019 British Open.  I’ll ride him until he bucks me off.

Play well.

Golf – A Game Of Adjustments

Jack Nicklaus has some great advice for making on course adjustments.  Keep it simple by sticking to the fundamentals.  This was easier for Jack because he had full self-awareness on the course.  I’ve had a mixed bag of success making changes because I play too infrequently and lack full self-awareness.  A champion like Nicklaus had so much experience to pull from.  A desk jockey like me cannot possibly know every nook and cranny of my game. For me, the difficulty lies in judging WHY I am playing poorly and should I adjust?  I try to judge three criteria before making a mid-flight correction:

  1. Am I fatigued?  Sometimes you’ll play lousy because you are tired.  If this is the case, most adjustments will not work.  The golf swing is an athletic move and if you are out of juice the best thing is to acknowledge it and play on.  Changing something while fatigued is acting on a false failure and can do more harm than good.
  2. Have I seen the pattern in the past and been able to adjust?  The best type of fixes here are caught during a range warm up session.  Seeing a strange ball flight pattern?  Adjust and play it during the round.  You are not supposed to work on your swing while warming up, but if you recognize a tendency that you’ve addressed in the past, you can reuse a band-aid that’s worked before.  While on the course, if I observe my big miss (pull hook), I’ll generally know how to fix it from the lesson work I’ve done.  Worst case scenario is you start to spray the ball inconsistently.  Really simplify if you make a change here.  Try something like taking an extra club or swinging slower.  Sometimes your natural biorhythms are off.  You just don’t feel right and everything you try that worked in a previous round doesn’t.  That’s just how golf works and I’d hesitate to make a mechanical change under these circumstances.  Don’t force it and just double down on the extra club or slower swing.
  3. Can I make a course management change?  These are the best and lowest risk adjustments because there are no mechanics.  Sometimes if you modify your thinking good things will happen.  The absolute best adjustment I’ve got here is to stop flag hunting and play for the middle of the green.  Do this a couple times and you’ll realize what a stroke saver it is.

Tried any mid-round adjustments lately?  Got something that works or should be avoided?  Please share and play well!

Does It Pass The Nicklaus Test?

By now, you’ve seen the video of Phil Mickelson’s moving ball violation on #13 of Saturday’s U.S. Open round.

Was this a violation of the spirit of the competition or simply a smart golfer taking advantage of the rules?  You be the judge.  Phil is a very bright articulate guy.  After watching his explanation to Curtis Strange, his reasoning seemed half plausible.

We can recall numerous accounts of questionable behavior on tour from Rory McIlroy throwing a club into a lake after a bad shot, to Arnold Palmer, one of my boyhood idols, sending a putter into orbit after a three-putt (saw this in person at the Kemper Open), to Tiger Woods exhibiting less than stellar behavior with his temper tantrums and bad language, to just about everything John Daly has ever done including playing a moving ball in the 1999 U.S. Open.

These folks are human and are not perfect, and are under a constant microscope.  But the behavior of professional golfers in general has been excellent.  When I see one of these events, it’s tempting to view it through the eyes of  “the children”.  What would “the children”, with young impressionable and malleable minds be thinking of this?  Doesn’t really matter because “the children’s” idols largely reside in team sports where players have far worse behavioral issues than professional golfers.

I view this behavior through the prism of the Jack Nicklaus Integrity Test.  What would Jack do?  I’m sure he’s had his incidents, but I’ve never seen or heard of an integrity problem with the greatest who’s ever played.  How would he have behaved in such a situation?  I believe Jack would have let the putt finish and played it as it lies.  Sometimes Jack weighs in on these matters, as he did with Rory’s behavior.  Would love to hear his take.

I’m a huge Phil fan, but he was wrong to do this.  What really bugged me in his explanation that he’d been “thinking of doing this several times before.”  Really?  This time Phil outsmarted himself.  What do you think?

2015 Masters Picks

77Augusta National, like no other venue tests a player’s patience, persistence, and concentration.  To win The Masters, players need to contend for 63 holes then charge on the back nine on Sunday.  More important than shooting a very low round is avoiding a bad day.  A deep dive into the tournament archives  reveals that over the last 60 years, avoiding one bad number has been the key to Masters victory.

Jack Nicklaus is arguably the greatest Masters player of all time.  From 1959 through 1993, Jack had only three rounds of 77 or worse in 125 played; just incredible consistency.  He won with two 74s on the card in 1963 and a 76 in the second round in 1966.  But when players card a 77, it’s basically over.  In the last 62 years, only Nick Faldo in 1989 has won the tournament after recording a 77 for one of his four rounds.  Go back to Sam Snead in 1952, for the next round of 77, to find another champion.     So as we don our green jackets and settle into marathon coverage with our pimento cheese sandwiches, know that as soon as your favorite shoots 5-over for the day, he’s cooked.  Just ask Greg Norman (1996) how that works.

For 2015, let’s see who can avoid the big number and who’s primed to win it.  Get your Calcutta ready.

Group 1:  “Masters Champions.”  (Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods)  Adam Scott has shot three 77s or worse in 48 Masters rounds, but none since 2008.  Good recent consistency, ball striking is in excellent form, but his putting is horrible after switching from the broomstick.  Might make the cut, but you gotta roll the rock.  He will not contend.  Defending champion Bubba Watson is in excellent form.  Bombs it off the tee, short game is razor sharp, 2/24 at 77 or worse with rounds in 2011 and 2013 respectively, and he’s controlling his emotions.  Great value play at 10/1 odds.  Three time champion, Phil Mickelson has played 84 Masters rounds and fired only two at 77 or worse; amazing consistency for the proverbial roller coaster rider.  But Lefty will hit 45 years old in June and hasn’t been in good form over the past two Masters.  Scores are going up with age.  Maybe he makes the cut.  Tiger Woods; no chance.  Just listed as a courtesy.

Group 2:  “Other Major Winners.” (Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose)  Rory McIlroy brings the Air 3-Iron show to Georgia and is a bit off mentally.  Game is suited for Augusta with his high ball flight, but five of 22 Masters rounds are at 77 or worse; with one each in the last five tournaments.  Enough talent to finish top-10 in his sleep, but I want to see him get over the psychological dumpster on this track before I ride him.  Martin Kaymer has only one 77 out of 20 rounds but has never finished higher than 31st.  You need to be a great chipper to win at Augusta.  Kaymer is not and is more comfortable putting from off the green.  I don’t like the fit.  He will make the cut but bide his time waiting to defend at the U.S. Open.  Justin Rose has only three bad rounds out of 36 and has never missed a Masters cut.  Last five years have all been top-25 finishes.  Is moving in the right direction and is more seasoned with pressure since his U.S. Open victory.  Will be in the top-10.

Group 3:  “First Major?”  (Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Ricky Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Jason Day)  Matt Kuchar has the best shot in this cast.  His short game and putting could be best on tour and the ex-Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket is very comfortable on the grounds.  Could be his year but he already feels overdue.  Dustin Johnson is playing great but doesn’t have the short game to win here.  Sergio Garcia has a long record of futility at Augusta.  Six bad rounds out of 54 were mostly early in his career, but he’s got that choke mentality on the back nine on Sunday and that’s where The Masters is won.  Ricky Fowler tied for fifth last year and has not missed a cut in his four appearances.  With only one bad round in 16, I look for a top-10.  Henrik Stenson is the world’s #2 player, but as Judge Smails said in Caddyshack, “Some people just don’t belong.”

The Judge from spartanswill.forumotion.com
The Judge
from spartanswill.forumotion.com

Henrik hasn’t belonged at Augusta because the course is in his head.  He’s got three rounds in the 80s and five at 77 or worse out of 30.  Awesome ball striker but historically poor around the greens, despite some improvement this year.  Despite the angst, he’ll rebound and post a top-20.  I keep asking myself when Jordan Spieth will win a major.  He’s always in contention, but burns a little hot at times and must control his temper in this event.  He’s not the straightest ball striker but that won’t hurt him at Augusta.  Missing 3-5 foot putts will, and I’m not sure he’s sold on this looking at the hole part time putting method.  If he figures it out, could win it.  Patrick Reed is not one of the top five players in the world but is in the top 10.  Awesome in match play format but has a very short Masters history.  Needs more seasoning and will not contend this year.  Jason Day was my pick last year and continues to disappoint.  Always gets close and seems to make back-to-back bogeys at the wrong time.  Flights it high like Rory and is suited for the venue, but struggles to control his distances on short irons.  Miss with too many wedges here and you can’t win it.  Look for another top-10.

Final Predictions:

Winner:  Bubba Watson to repeat and weep.

Runner Up:  Jordan Spieth cools his jets and gets closer than ever

Third:  Rory McIlroy keeps all his clubs in the bag, breaks the bad number streak, but no career slam this year

Who do you like?

Bubba Watson from usatoday.com
Bubba Watson
from usatoday.com

When Is It Time To Quit?

On a fall afternoon in 1973, I remember watching my home town Washington Redskins do battle with the San Diego Chargers.  I was only 12 years old at the time, but the image of Johnny Unitas, struggling to stay upright, and fully embarrassing himself at the helm of the Chargers offense will always be etched in my mind.  I was too young to remember Unitas in his glory years, but recall my father telling me how great he was as the leader of the Baltimore Colts.  I was a little sad, and was left to ponder why someone would extend their playing career past their ability to compete.  Thankfully he retired after that season.  Unitas was 40 years old.

For athletes who’ve competed from adolescence through the present day, the hardest thing for them in life is to know when to quit.  Usually the deterioration in capacity is gradual, with the mind remaining sharp as the physical skills slowly atrophy.  Derek Jeter comes to mind, with his retirement feeling timely and right.

Tiger Pulls out of Farmers Photo by ESPN
Tiger Pulls out of Farmers
Photo by ESPN

For the last two years, I’ve been watching the Tiger Woods saga and pontificating about his decline in performance and how his chances of catching Jack Nicklaus were nill, and how maintaining this charade of injury and comeback attempts was no longer continuing to the betterment of the professional game.  We all know that golf is a unique sport in which players can compete at the elite levels for longer because the physical demands are not the same as other professional sports.  However, Tiger’s performance at The Farmers was Johnny U.  He’s clearly done from a physical standpoint and should retire before the embarrassment gets worse.  We can hold on to the greatness of the Tiger memories, but too much time in the gym, too much Navy Seal training, and too much repetitive stress on his back and legs has taken its final toll.  I actually believe he is capable of recovering from his mental foibles, but his body is sending a clear message.  It is time.

Do we continue with the false hope that he’ll somehow recover the old magic, or is it time to take his seat in the booth next to Jim and Sir Nick?  How do you see it?

2014 Masters Picks

Masters LogoThe Masters green prognostication jacket is out of the closet.  Ready for a changing of the guard?  It’s here and this year’s champion will be a first time major winner.

First, the usual suspects.  Tiger’s body is breaking down and he’s withdrawn.  Phil’s body appears to be giving him more difficulty than in the past and while he’s overcome some significant arthritic issues, age is becoming a factor.  I love watching Phil compete, but he is 43 and will turn 44 in June, and from a major winning standpoint, players hit the wall at 44 (see data from golfmajorchampionships.com below).  Phil still has game and usually turns it on at Augusta no matter what type of form he’s showing in the preceding weeks.  That being said, of all the majors contested since Willie Park won the first Open Championship in 1860, only eight have been won by a player older than 43, making Jack Nicklaus‘ victory in the 1986 Masters, at age 46 all that more impressive.   Look for a top-10 finish for Phil.

MajorWinners Augusta National is the premier horses-for-courses venue and picking the winner is the easiest of all the majors because course familiarity is a huge advantage and some of the entrants are aging past champions who have no chance  The contest also boasts the smallest field of all the majors with 97 entrants in 2014.  The other majors routinely field more than 150.

I love the newer younger cast of characters because they all have great ability and are dynamite when they get hot, but each has a distinct weakness that prevents dominating performances from week-to-week.  Come Sunday evening, the tournament will pit four players head-to-head:  Rory McIlroy, Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott, and Jason Day.  Let’s take them in reverse order.

Jason Day will win The Masters this year.

Jason Day From golfdigest.com
Jason Day
From golfdigest.com

He’s been so close with a 3rd in 2013 and a T-2nd in 2011 and it is now his time.  Jason hit’s it a long way, knows the course very well, and has finally got his mind right.  I loved the way he kept his cool and closed at the WGC Accenture when Victor Dubuisson kept getting up-and-down out of trash cans, dumpsters, and desert cactus against him in the final.  Day’s weakness is his ability to control his distances under pressure.  He’s adjusted with a repeatable pre-shot routine and doesn’t deviate based on the situation.  Alan Shipnuck’s piece at Golf.com on Day is must reading for students of the mental game.  Day’s visualization techniques are more in-depth than any I’m aware of.  His fascination with Navy Seals training and affinity for hitting the gym are sounding Tiger-esque and I would caution him about taking too extreme an approach.  But for this week, as long as his sore thumb holds up, he wins his first major.

Adam Scott and Matt Kuchar will tie for second.  Scott is the horse for this course, has Steve Williams on the bag for steadiness and sense of purpose, and has the full compliment of tools.  He’s susceptible to getting on bogey runs which are protracted and seem to come at terrible times under pressure.  Yes, he pulled through last year in an epic moment for self and country, but his fellow Aussie will edge him out.  In the back of Scott’s mind has to be the upcoming ban on anchoring and how he will adjust.  Is it starting to affect his current work with the flat stick?

Kuchar plays well at Augusta, knows the course intimately, and has the temperament.  He won THE PLAYERS Championship, which is just as hard as a major, and is also ready.  Kuchar’s achilles heel is his driving distance.  He’s also mediocre in GIR and the fact that he’s so highly rated year after year in scoring average is a testament to his lights out short game and putting.  This new closed stance and slightly over the top move is supposedly getting the job done, but doesn’t bode well for the right to left ball flight needed at Augusta and will be just enough to hold him back.  Down the line shots at Shell indicate he’s made a slight correction from last week at Valero but still looks too closed to me.  Hopefully it helps him.

Rory McIlroy finishes alone in 4th.  The Northern Irishman is starting to look like Phil Mickelson from a roller coaster perspective.  When hot, there’s nobody better, but when his driving is off, it affects his mindset and his total game suffers.  Physically, he’s got the tools to be the best player in the world and is a multiple major winner.  He’s still young and it still may happen.  Now I need to see a serious run with no final round collapse.

Value picks for your Calcutta.  Look for Zach Johnson to make a run.  The 2007 champion had a great 2013 season, is hitting fairways and greens in 2014, but has slipped to 68th in total putting.

Nobody wins in his first attempt at Augusta, but I look at these three making their Masters debut to have an impact.  Jordan Spieth has the guts and the game to win a major-now.  Billy Horschel got real hot this time last year and has the confidence to contend.  Harris English has all the physical tools but needs more time under the gun.  Missing from the conversation is Jimmy Walker who’s leading the Tour in FedEx points and has three wins under his belt.  He kills it of the tee, putts great, but is only 86th in scrambling, which is a must have around Augusta.  While he’s shown steady improvement over the last five years, I don’t look for him to make a move in his Masters debut until he gets some experience chipping to these greens.

Masters Sunday is one of my favorite days of the year.  Play golf in the morning and settle into exciting final round coverage in the afternoon; I can’t wait.  Good luck in your pools!

 

2013 Masters Picks

The MastersThe 2013 Masters has a ton of intrigue and is ground zero in the battle to settle the question of who the greatest player of all time is.  Add in a wrinkle in the scheduling process and the winning picture becomes  clear.

Like it or not, this year’s tournament is about Tiger Woods and if he can he light the flame under the second stage of his career and rocket himself to the all time top.  TigerTrailing Jack Nicklaus by four in the majors race, Woods’ three wins in six starts this year is scary good and he is primed for a run.  His main competition on the world stage is Rory McIlroy, who’s game is in shambles due to the recent equipment change and some questionable (lack of) good practice habits.  Rory is not a serious contender this year.

PhilThree time champion Phil Mickelson seems to have the next best shot and usually prepares himself to peak at Augusta.  But this year, a scheduling anomaly will hurt Phil, who likes to play the week ahead of a major.  The Shell Houston Open would be an excellent tune up for Augusta, as the PGA Tour attempts to duplicate Augusta like conditions at the Redstone GC, but an additional tour stop has been inserted between Shell and Augusta.  The Valero Texas Open at the J.W. Marriott TPC course is a poor tune-up venue with it’s high winds and tight tee shots.  Phil is playing Shell but skipping Valero.

Next best opportunity comes from the duo of Louis Oosthuizen and Keegan Bradley.  Louis finished 2012 very strong with four top-five finishes in his last seven events.  He’s got the stones to win another major and performed beautifully last year in his runner-up finish to Bubba Watson.  With only two cuts made in four starts this season, I would like to see a little more momentum heading into Augusta.  Bradley hits a long high ball and is well suited for the venue.  He’s won a major, seems to have the desire, and doesn’t get intimated by anyone.  He’s got a chance.

Defending champion, Bubba Watson has been in decent form lately but feels like more of a one-and-done guy on the major circuit.  Can he rekindle the emotional flame?  I doubt it.

On Tiger’s chances, the only thing holding him back is an occasionally balky putter.  He is clearly hitting on all cylinders and likes to skip the week before a major, so the scheduling quirk plays to his advantage.  He is not, and will never be as dominant as he once was because of his age and his propensity to sustain injury.  I’m not convinced his mental foibles are 100% behind him but he seems to be more comfortable being himself again.

So here are your 2013 Masters Picks:

Champion:  Tiger Woods.  Yes he gets it done this year as all the stars are aligned, but Jack Nicklaus’ all time record of 18 majors is safe.  I know, doesn’t take much courage to make this pick 🙂

Runner-Up:  Louis Oosthuizen, for the second straight year.

Third:  Keegan Bradley.  Needs a little more seasoning but could be a threat.

Dark Horse:  Matt Kuchar.  Winner already at WGC Accenture and would be a great feel good story.

Who do you like?

2013 Top Five Lists!

Here we go with my top five’s for 2013.  What are yours?

Top Five Players of All Time:

  1. Jack Nicklaus
  2. Tiger Woods
  3. Byron Nelson
  4. Ben Hogan
  5. Sam Snead

Top Five Tournaments to watch:

  1. The Ryder Cup
  2. The Masters
  3. The U.S. Open
  4. THE PLAYERS Championship
  5. The Open Championship

Five most popular players of all time:

  1. Arnold Palmer
  2. Tiger Woods
  3. Jack Nicklaus
  4. Fred Couples
  5. Phil Mickelson

Five least popular players of all time:

  1. Colin Montgomerie
  2. Tiger Woods
  3. Vijay Singh
  4. Tom Weiskopf
  5. Scott Hoch

Five greatest golf courses in the world:

  1. Augusta National
  2. Old Course St. Andrews
  3. Pebble Beach
  4. Oakmont
  5. Pine Valley

Top five legendary tempers:

  1. Tommy Bolt
  2. Tom Weiskopf
  3. Steve Pate
  4. Pat Perez
  5. Woody Austin

Five purest swings to watch:

  1. Ben Hogan
  2. Ernie Els
  3. Fred Couples
  4. Rory McIlroy
  5. Sam Snead

Five ugliest swings to watch (but not emulate):

  1. Jim Thorpe
  2. Jim Furyk
  3. Moe Norman
  4. Calvin Peete
  5. John Daly

Honorable mention:  Charles Barkley

There you have them.  What have I missed if anything?  Please weigh in!

Fighting your golf swing? Give yourself a fighting chance.

The great thing about the game of golf is that you inevitably learn something new every time you play.  I had a big fight with my golf swing today and will share what happened in hopes that you can learn from my experience.

Today I played my worst ball striking round of the year, but also shot my lowest score of the season (73).  What happened?  Off the tee, I couldn’t hit water from a boat and was looking at big pushes with my driver and irons the entire day.  After trying every WOOD bandaid I knew of I finally figured it out on the 17th tee.  I had reverted to my classic miss when I come up and out of my spine angle.  On the next two tee shots, I exaggerated the spine angle retention and everything re-clicked into place.  There are two important lessons here:  1)  If you’ve identified a swing fault through professional instruction and start missing shots and seeing a consistent recognizable shot pattern, you are likely falling into the same old habit, even though you may not feel as if you’re making the old move.  2)  You get out of this game what you put into it, and you need to focus on practicing what you’ll need the most during play.

The first point validates that we are human and humans are creatures of habit.  Good and bad, those habits are hard to break and should be recognized for what they are.  Focus on identifying and correcting the bad and don’t get sidetracked on a bunch of other stuff.  To the second point, I had reviewed a period of time in the past where I enjoyed a nice stretch of play and had correlated that with a certain type of practice which I had recently gotten away from.  In short, I got lazy.  Yesterday I decided to buckle down and duplicate that old practice session and it paid off handsomely.  The drill was hitting 100 uphill putts from four feet using my alignment sticks to frame the putt.  I made 19 of the first 20 but noticed I was cutting the putts and they were leaking in the right side of the hole.  I patiently worked each group of 10 by checking one fundamental per set until I hit the right one and proceeded to bang in 50 in a row with confidence.  The fundamental was to feel the club brushing  the ground on my backswing which helped keep the putter head low and promote solid contact.  Now this drill is quite boring and takes a considerable amount of time, but the payoff was worth it.  Today I had my best day putting, especially from long distance, which was crucial since I wasn’t hitting my irons close.  The confidence boost the practice provided was invaluable, as I felt totally ready and prepared for success over every putt.

On the swing fight, give yourself a chance by managing your game and having the courage to admit your swing is off and make good playing decisions.  Once I recognized I was off, I kept the driver in the bag and worked the 3WD for position.  I found that even when you lose distance, it’s important from a mental perspective to get your tee shot in play because you can become despondent  and disinterested when you drive the ball into trouble too often.  So when your swing deserts you, continue to make an aggressive swing with a more conservative club.  Use whatever you need to get the ball in play and keep your mind in the game.

What I admire most about Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods is not all the major championship victories, but the ability both had to play great golf and keep their head in the game when they didn’t have their best move.  It’s frustrating to not hit driver on the par-5s or on the long par-4s, but trust me on this; it’s more important to stay in play and give yourself a chance.  Often, as you lower the pressure on yourself to drive it straight, you’ll regain confidence that will help your swing to come around.  Good luck!

Can Tiger break Jack’s record? No way.

Many opinions have been rendered by players, writers, and prognosticators across the spectrum, including Nicklaus himself, so I’ll weigh in with an emphatic “No”, Tiger cannot break the record.   Consider the insurmountable evidence:

  • Only 18 players in the history of golf have won at least five majors, and only one of them is still active, Woods.  It took the rest their entire careers to amass the five victories and Tiger is starting at age 35.
  • Balance of power is too great.  For the first time since 1991, no player in the top 25 money list has more than two wins.
  • Strength of global competition.  In 1991, 22 of the top 25 money winners were American.  In 2011, just 17 are.  Go a little deeper and there’s only one American in spots 26-30.  The world’s top players are younger, hungrier, and in the game.
  • Tiger is reworking his swing after winning 14 majors.  Are you kidding?  His head drops 3-4 inches on his downswing making consistent ball striking difficult (a must for major contention.)  Now his stance has mysteriously narrowed on full shots.
  • Constant battle with his putter.  Not a good sign when he’s continually changing putters, adding lead tape, etc.  Look at Mickelson’s performance in the big events since he’s been struggling with his putting – not good.
  • Age and propensity to suffer lower body injuries.
  • Ultimately, Tiger is fighting his biggest battle on the course between his ears.  You must be of single mind and purpose to win majors.  It’s not going to happen with all the distractions.

Add it all up and Jack’s record is safe.  Count on it.

Greg Norman weighs in on Tiger

Great article at golf.com on Norman’s views on Tiger.  I was a huge Greg Norman fan in his heyday and found his points on the lack of a mentor for Tiger very telling and was interested to learn that Norman leaned on Nicklaus, Watson, Floyd, and Trevino when times got tough.  Norman never struck me as the type to seek out help, especially after his blow-up at the 1996 Masters, and he seemed to lose his swagger after that defeat.  I wonder if he consulted the aforementioned greats before or after the loss.

Clearly, Tiger lost his mentor when his dad passed and I suspect that was the start of his downfall, although he sustained his professional success for several years while the seeds of his personal implosion were germinating.

Norman’s statement that, “Nobody’s bigger than the game or anybody else,” is true and I suspect Tiger never got the message.