Bunker Mentality

Tiger limps to end of ‘annus horribilis’

Bunker Mentality

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In 1992, the Queen famously used the phrase 'annus horribilis' to describe a 12-month period in which two royal marriages fell apart and fire ripped through Windsor Castle.

Tiger Woods no doubt feels the same about 2010. If the only things that had gone wrong had been the breakdown of his marriage or his desertion by several major sponsors, it might have been one thing.

Yet for all the pain of his off-course dramas, for this most supreme and single-minded of sportsmen what will unsettle him the most will be seeing his game deteriorate to the point where he has not tasted victory for over a year.

He has been single before; he has been a hungry, up-and-coming player in search of the trappings of fame before; but since the day he shot 48 over nine holes at the age of three, he has never gone so long without beating his peers.

In desperation, Tiger has submitted himself to a complete swing rebuild with new coach Sean Foley, a cocky 35-year-old Canadian with very fixed ideas about the game and a passionate advocate of the 'stack and tilt' swing method.

Foley has already ruffled some feathers in golf coaching. He has dismissed Woods's swing under Butch Harmon ("pretty, but it just wasn't the most efficient way to swing") and rubbished the former world number one's method under previous coach Hank Haney ("It's not like he was flushing it with Hank. I think he hasn't been happy with how he's hit it for a very long time"). This despite Harmon helping Woods to win four Majors in a row, and Haney guiding the great man to six Major titles - including a victory in the 2006 Open at Hoylake, which Woods described as the second-best ball-striking week of his career behind his record 15-shot win at the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach.

A few years ago, soon after Haney took over as Tiger's coach, BM enjoyed a one-on-one interview with Harmon, who made it perfectly clear that what made Tiger the player he is has little to do with his swing method.

"It makes me laugh, all the talk about Tiger's technique," said Harmon. "He is such a great competitor he could win with any swing."

Yet the loss of that competitive edge is now the problem for Tiger: his issues are not with the way that he's swinging the club, but with the contents of his head. His ability to carve out victory after victory has been miraculous: it saw him win the 2008 US Open with a knee that would have seen most players bedridden, win six strokeplay tournaments in a row in 2006, and complete his 'Tiger Slam' at the 2001 Masters when almost any other human in history would have melted under the pressure. But that ability now seems to have gone.

As the legendary Bobby Jones put it, "golf is a game played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears." Until Tiger masters that five-and-a-half-inch space, he will not win again.

For the sake of golf, let's hope he gets back on track soon.

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No matter how bad Tiger's "annus horribilis" has been, he will be able to console himself with one thing: the four-hole golf course at his new home in Jupiter Island, Florida, is ready to open. Check out these pictures, courtesy of Jeff and Cary Lichtenstein's Palm Beach County Real Estate blog:

 

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[Photo by Terry Yeager, Above & Beyond Aviation Services. Cary Lichtenstein is a former rater of golf courses for GolfWeek Magazine. He started playing at the age of 7, and has played all top 100 golf courses in the United States. Cary served on the greens committee at Admirals Cove, and now sells homes for sale in Admirals Cove, Jupiter, Florida, with his son Jeff Lichtenstein at Illustrated Properties & Christies Great Estates.]

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There was the best possible news for fans of links golf at the weekend as the Scottish Open's home for next year was confirmed as Castle Stuart near Inverness, with the Renaissance Club in East Lothian - next door to Muirfield - taking over as of 2012.

It's about time too. Loch Lomond is a wonderful golf course in a stunning location, but something always felt wrong about holding Scotland's national open on an inland track - no matter how good that track was. It's a bit like going to a fancy Italian restaurant and ordering a hamburger, or going to a rave and requesting that the DJ plays something by The Carpenters. You might get a lovely burger, and you might be soothed by the mellowness of an easy-listening 1970s pop classic, but you'll always be slightly missing the point.

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Quote of the Week: Tiger Woods and Shane Warne "share the same nocturnal habits" - English cricket commentator Mark Nicholas leaves both Woods and notorious womaniser Warne red-faced during a live TV interview in Australia.

Nonsense of the Week: The fact that the European Tour is STILL going on, and indeed has two tournaments left to go. The final event, the Dubai World Championship, finishes on November 28. The first event of the 2011 season begins on December 9. Guys, seriously... you earned a holiday. Go and enjoy it.

Shot of the Week: Davis Love III's stunning ace at the Children's Miracle Network Classic. A simply wonderful shot from well over 200 yards.

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