Last week Tiger Woods missed the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow after another weak showing. A few days before the Wells Fargo I was watching a golf tournament on the Golf Channel. It was the 2001 Players Championship that Tiger Woods won. After watching that tournament and the Wells Fargo, I thought that something seems to be different about Tiger between then and now. That is, something other than his playing ability. He has been through a lot with family issues and changes of coaches all of which, I am sure, has had a profound effect on him. I could not put my finger on it at first, but after I thought about it for a while I determined that it was his demeanor that was different.
The 2001 Players Championship was his 26th win. After struggling early in the week he came back with extraordinary shot making and putting skills to win. At that time his demeanor was the same as it was in every tournament. He was focused, determined, confident, composed, and unapproachable by the gallery during play (no eye contact or hand slapping between holes). I didn’t see him get too upset during that tournament like he has recently. Basically, his character was in tune with what he had to do to win.
Fast forward to the Wells Fargo and we see a completely different Tiger Woods. He smiled often and actually connected with the gallery including slapping hands as he walked to the next tee. He seemed much more relaxed and it actually looked like he was having fun out there. On the other hand, he missed several shots that would have been no trouble at all for him in the past. One example was the high fade iron shot, several of which got him into trouble. His touch around and on the greens also were not up to what we are used to seeing from him. I noticed several times as he was getting ready to take a shot that he would try to relieve the tension by taking a deep breath. This is uncharacteristic for him and it showed a lack of confidence.
Lately, Tiger has complained about “old patterns” reappearing when things are not going right. In other words he is blaming his old teachers and coaches for his current troubles on the course. The fact is, he won a lot of tournaments and a lot of money with those old patterns. Maybe his new coach, Sean Foley, has tried to change too much rather than to work on improving Tiger’s natural abilities.
I have never been much of a fan of Tiger Woods just because I never thought he was likable or treated those around him (on or off the course) with much respect. On the other hand, his record as a golfer speaks for itself. He will go down in history as one of the greatest that ever played the game. Just maybe he is starting to understand that the greatness of the game far out surpasses anyone that plays it. At least now, it looks like from the outside that he is having fun and is beginning to respect those around him. As far as getting his skill level up to the point where he can win and be dominant again, only time will tell.