I thought it was quite interesting that Tiger Woods, former victim of “over-teaching” and the “cancer” that is “academic instruction” won the Memorial Tournament while “natural” swingers Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy missed the cut and another “grip it and rip it” star Ricky Fowler shot 84 next to Tiger’s 67. The point is not that one is better than the other (teaching methods or non-methods); the point is that on any given week anyone can win and anyone can play horribly, and it says nothing in the long term about how someone goes about trying to be good. It should be obvious: golf is so hard and is such an individual sport that it really is about the player figuring out how to be good, not the coach. I can give someone direction, but the bottom line is that the player has to develop the awareness necessary to put the club on the ball in every situation and perform solidly in every aspect of the game.
The player also has to figure out how to respond to the physiological and mental strains that result from being under pressure, because if you begin to attain your goals it almost always means that you setting yourself up for greater tests of your ability, your technique, and your mental fortitude. A teacher cannot help you execute under the gun. He or she can only provide you with the knowledge to draw from so that you can battle effectively against everything that seems to be against your being successful. On one week Ricky Fowler or Bubba Watson can rule the world, and the next they will be lost, totally flummoxed as the game suddenly eludes them. Tiger can look wooden and forced, making continual practice swings and rehearsing every portion of his game endlessly as though he were still searching for the light bulb to go off and he would “have it”, and the next week look masterful and controlled, secure in his knowledge of the swing in general and his own swing more specifically, knowing that he can control his movements and hit the ball with the height, curvature, and distance that he desires.
That said, I certainly prefer Tiger’s approach to the game, and I think that because of his approach to the game he will break Jack’s record with room to spare and continue to be a force for as long as he cares to play. As I’ve said all along, if you ever had the notion that he wasn’t among the two best players to ever play you just have to take another look at his resume’. Everyone needs to be watching what Tiger does and how he does it. To criticize his golf-oriented decisions is simply ludicrous. How did it ever occur to anyone that they knew more about golf and how to learn it and play it than did Tiger Woods? Are you kidding me? He has a better record than Hogan, and he is as much like Hogan as any player since Hogan. Tiger studies the game. He likes to have a “teacher” because he doesn’t really like to come up with the big ideas himself. He would rather have someone of his choosing give him a vision and a direction, then he would apply himself fully. Most of the details of how he implemented the teacher’s ideals would be up to him, and Tiger has stated that he does most of the detail work himself. That, of course, is what you would expect from the greatest player still playing. He knows what he has to do to win. As he works on his swing he wants Foley, or Haney, or Butch to make sure that he is on track with his ideas on how to execute the swing. He will spend a ton of time practicing, and the teacher will be present only a small fraction of that time. During the time without the teacher what do you think Tiger, or any player for that matter, is doing? They are figuring it out for themselves.