Tiger Woods: Does He Already Know Everything About His Own Golf Swing?

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Tiger Woods: Does He Already Know Everything About His Own Golf Swing?
Mike Groll/Associated Press
Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship

For 20 years, Tiger Woods has had the best instruction from at least three of the world's best, professional-level instructors. Is it possible he already knows how to fix his own game?

If he took notes in the Butch Harmon/Hank Haney classes, there's a chance that Woods already has the information he needs to bring out his best. He may not need anyone for the knowledge. He does not need anyone to practice, as he says, "his feels" for his short game. That's why he calls it "feels."

The problem is that sometimes an athlete's feel can lie.

He or she thinks one thing is happening or that a swing "feels" right when in fact, an error may be creeping in.

You can pretty much prove this to yourself with your own golf game using an impact bag, as my co-author for Venus of The Fairway, former LPGA player, Debbie Meisterlin Steinbach (now Keller) explained. Most of us think we know what impact feels like, but in fact, most golfers don't. An impact bag tells any golfer what the body position, hands, arms, torso, legs and feet are supposed to feel like at impact. Debbie proved it time and time again with amateurs. And that's just one "feel" in golf.

As a golfer, you feel where your backswing is going. You feel your grip. You feel whether you are moving your center of gravity one way on the back swing and the other on the follow-through. You feel the surface of the green with your feet.

Woods is well beyond those rudimentary stages. But he may need to recreate his high-level feel for hitting certain shots. Depending on which side of the critics couch you reside, you may think he needs a better feel for controlling his driver, hitting short irons or scrambling.

However, what he may actually be lacking is the ability to feel because of lack of practice and because injuries and surgery have changed his body and what it can do.  

Certainly Woods' injuries in the last five years have curtailed his time on the range, time that he can play golf, time standing on uphill and downhill lies, time hitting out of bunkers to tight pins. Unfortunately, as Jose Maria Olazabal said one time about his skill as a short game player: "Is no secret. Is practice." Woods has not been able to devote the time to practice.

However, as my co-author for Championship Swimming, Olympian Tracey McFarlane-Mirande, said about practice, "Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect." There's enough in that phrase to drive you crazy for a lifetime.  

For Woods, who has had injury after injury, who has to first rehab body parts and then a golf swing, the whole world of feels is probably messed up. If a bad swing habit doesn't feel any different than a good one, then the golfer is not going to be able to improve. That's where the phrase dig it out of the dirt came from. In other words, I can't tell what I'm doing except by hitting balls until I figure out how to get it right for me.

Unfortunately, none of us can stand outside ourselves and watch what we are doing to see how reality differs from the goal. We need a second set of eyes to help us shortcut the distance between where we are and where we want to be.

While we may call it a coach or a trainer, or by some other name, at some point Woods will likely need that second set of eyes to tell him if he is doing what he thinks he is doing. Whether it's adjusting a grip, moving the shaft through the backswing, having the right stance or ball position, the trained eye can see it.

A good set of eyes is a rare commodity in golf, and that is why so many people flock to Butch Harmon, who is among the best at identifying trouble spots in a golf swing. Best recent case: look what he did for Jimmy Walker in less than a year.  

However, there are others with good eyes who may or may not want to take up the task. Someone like Nick Faldo or Nick Price or Mark O'Meara, all of whom remade their swings, could be appropriate candidates, even though that is not what they want to do.

They know mechanics of the golf swing well. They can see errors because they've had errors. Those three are not alone, but they have in common remade swings, the ability to learn new feels, the determination to succeed and major championship success. No one has said they have any interest, and they probably don't. But they have special knowledge and trained eyes.

And so the speculating begins. Who, if anyone, will Tiger Woods call on to be his second set of eyes as he makes his way back to major championship form. All we know for now is that it won't be Sean Foley.

Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour, R&A or PGA of America.

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