You’d never think it would be possible to learn anything about golf from watching swimming, but over the weekend, watching the Grand Prix Swimming from Indianapolis, former Olympic Gold freestyler Rowdy Gaines explained why the top stars were racing now.
He said the reason 2008 Olympians like Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte were swimming is that competing was different than training.
They needed to swim to see what they were going to have to do to be good enough to win at the World Championships this summer. They needed to swim to see how they stacked up against the competition. They needed to see what their times were now and to see how much they would have to improve to win later. They needed to test themselves against the competition in advance of the next Olympics.
What Tiger Woods may be missing is enough practice in competition.
This week he will get a little bit at the Doral Cadillac Championships, and hopefully at the Bay Hill Invitational he will get more. He has a long way to go to beat the rest of the top 20 in the world over four rounds.
The only way for him to get better against them is to tee it up.
In 2010, he said that he's still working on his swing. Anybody watching a golf tournament would be able to tell him what he can’t do, but only Woods knows what he is trying to do.
In addition to testing himself against the world’s best, Woods will learn other things by playing at Doral’s Blue Monster course, just as Jack Nicklaus used to.
Nicklaus said he liked to play Doral because he had played it so many times. He knew where his shots should land and how far they should roll. He knew what his irons should do and how far they should travel. That would tell him how much work he had left before he could go to Augusta National and feel that he had his game ready for that test.
We saw at Accenture that Woods still blows his drives in directions he doesn’t want them to go. While the fairways at Augusta National are wide, even with the pseudo rough, placement off the tee is still important because of the angles to the greens on the second shots.
Since Augusta National’s greens are legendary, being some of the world’s most challenging putting surfaces (with a nod to those at St. Andrews), being able to attack the greens from the proper place on the fairway is important.
Augusta National has long rewarded high-ball hitters. A high, soft shot allows a player to approach, if not attack a pin. The ideal shot hits the green and doesn’t go very far. While fans like to see pros back up a ball on the green, that’s not the best way to play golf.
As Fred Couples said one time, “I know how far I hit it. I don’t know how far it will back up.” Greg Norman backed his ball off the ninth green in the final round of The Masters, and the rest was history and another green jacket for Nick Faldo.
There’s not much to learn about putting at Doral that will transfer to another course. Doral is Bermuda. Bay Hill is over-seeded. Augusta is over-seeded. Those will be the next three courses Woods plays. But he will still be practicing distance control and line and trying to make putts because making putts is good for confidence.
So the good news is Tiger Woods is playing this week. There’s no cut, so he’s going to get in four rounds whether he wants to or not. And with four more competitive rounds under his Nike logo belt, he will be in better shape to contend at Bay Hill and Augusta National.
In swimming, Michael Phelps won all his races, and he seemed pleased with some of this times at this point in the year.
Ryan Lochte, who has been training hard at the University of Florida, was less successful in his times. However, because he is training hard and did not rest or taper before the recent meet, he did not expect to do as well as he might if it were a world championship or an Olympic trial.
Both expect to be better later in the year.
Any athlete needs to practice and compete. With Tiger Woods, we know he has a strong work ethic, but he has not been able to bring the game to the golf course. Hopefully, the additional rounds at Doral and Bay Hill will get his game headed in the right direction.
Now if only golfers wore green sparkle shoes, tighty whitey Speedos, goggles and had hats with a picture of their face, like Lochte did, it would be just as crazy as swimming where fans scream during every stroke athletes take.