by Donald Crawley
Contributing Golf Writer, President of GolfSimplified, and Director of Instruction for The Boulders Club
Voted as a TOP 100 Teacher in Golf Magazine, and Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy, Carefree, AZ.
Boulders, AZ (Sports Network) --
As featured here at sportsnetwork.com, Tiger Woods is separating himself from what the journalistic pundits and self-proclaimed golf aficionados take the
liberty of referring to as competition. Yes, there was a pause, a blip on the radar screen, the deception that he was making room, changing his
approach to the game, looking back and waving the rest of the gang to come up to the seats in the first class, the ones that Vijay Singh and Phil
Mickelson were settling into of late. It seems that is not to be as he once again has his focus on singular occupancy of the title that clearly
establishes him atop the golf world and number one in the rankings put forth on the planet Earth. The outlook and opinion from this tee is that he's
getting better, not falling off his game. My guess is that you share my feelings.
I, like so many millions golf fans, have followed Tiger?s career from tournament to tournament, coast to coast and St. Andrews to Pebble
Beach. Although I never had the pleasure of meeting him personally, I feel privileged tangentially by knowing his swing coaches. For example, I
do count, as friends among peers in this world of golf teaching, his former coach, Butch Harmon, and his current coach, Hank Haney. There is little
need to extol their exploits and talents, reputations as excellent "professorial" golf academicians. Tiger?s own testimony regarding their respective
impact(s) upon him and, of course, his record, speaks for itself.
On a personal level, I am most interested in watching Tiger emerge from the ?slump.? That, in and of itself, was difficult to watch when one is aware of
what he can do on the course, his enormous arsenal of golf shots, the uncanny ability to rise, like the Phoenix, from the traps, between trees, out of a
rough where parents are looking for their lost children. It was improper and inopportune, undeserved, to even whisper the word "slump"; but that?s a
different complaint that is best left for another occasion...if and when I have the time, and you are still listening (reading). The fact of the matter is that
he was going through some changes, trying a different road to get to his destination(s) during this period and, to his credit, he stuck with it. Yes, he
could afford to. But, so can you since there are no million dollar checks waiting for you, sad as that may be. He never really missed one. Tiger is
beyond that. He wins now for the sake of winning. However, the question for the moment is whether or not you are that dedicated to improving?
Let's rewind the film for a moment and go back to the British Open at St. Andrews in July. Incidentally, as a native Brit, if I got caught calling THE
Open, as we know it, the British Open, my colleagues across the pond would not only be devastated but likely insist that I drink iced tea for the rest of
the year. What has the world come to?!?! That aside, I loved watching Tiger separate himself from the competition on the final nine holes. His
command of ball flight, direction, distance, trajectory and spin was on perfect display. Next trip over, have a go and play the old course when it is fast
and running, like an ice rink in the midst of winter, and you will realize what a different game it is.
Tiger - mission accomplished and no mini ice skates on his ball.
Next major on the schedule - PGA at Baltusrol. Take away a questionable plugged ball at the end of round one, and he probably wins that major. This
is not a knock on Phil?s victory nor a lessening of it but the truth is that Tiger outplayed and outscored the field over the final 54 holes.
Moving right along - World Series, NEC Invitational at Firestone. That was one heck of a finish, with excitement pasted all over it. What can you say
about Chris DiMarco, who was leading in the clubhouse watching Tiger bear down on the last few holes. Being a spectator to that outcome reminded
me of a famous quote regarding the great and retired Jack Nicklaus. Jack?s closest challengers were overheard saying this and we'll borrow it because
it says it all - "he knew that I knew that he knew he was going to win."
When people - writers, fans, commentators, other golfers - began doubting Tiger when he made a coaching change and started to revamp his swing
patience might have been a more credible and preferred option. Two people that did not doubt were Tiger and Hank. The man is a perfectionist and will always try to improve. Nick Faldo made a similar move and established himself as #1 in the world in 1990, after which
he accrued six majors. Point made?
It is actually fun to watch Tiger?s quest to accrue majors. Indeed, why not? Isn't sports about winning? I have the utmost respect for Hank because
we taught alongside each other at a Chicago Country Club in 1980. We each gave about 12 lessons a day, played nine holes together and discussed
our swing fixes that were encountered during our day on the lesson tee. We reviewed every angle of each shot, twist and turn of the greens, pitch,
putt and placement. We were both striving for perfection, like reaching for the moon and, if you miss, you figure you will still be hanging around
among the stars.
Hank moved on to Pinehurst at the end of that year, met Mark O?Meara, built a great relationship, helped Mark, who was US Amateur champ, go on to
win 30 tournaments around the world including two majors. Sounds like a good day's work to me, even if it takes a bit longer than planned. Hank was
what those folks in New York would call a "mench." He gave up his bed for me, for a week, when I first arrived off the banana boat from England in
April, 1980. The bottom line and the short stroke is that he?s a good guy and loves to teach golf. I?m not surprised that Tiger will continue to win. I
love his swing changes. I love his courage to make those changes on the golf course, under pressure, when it counts.
Are you afraid to make changes? I certainly hope not. If you want to get better you have to make alterations. Change is inevitable in every aspect of
our lives and that surely includes the golf course. Find yourself a good coach, build a relationship, practice and play without fear. Like Tiger.
Donald Crawley, Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy at the Boulders Resort & Golden Door? Spa in Carefree, AZ, and the President of GolfSimplified. Crawley, a veteran of 29 years of teaching experience, is a regular features contributor to The Sports Network that range from tips on improving your game to etiquette at the course. He has established 40 golf school sites in the United States since 1980, previously as vice president and director of instruction at John Jacobs? Golf Schools, consultant to the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, and presently at the Boulders Golf Resort in Arizona.
Crawley is recognized among the "Top 100 Teachers in America" by Golf Magazine and one of the "Best Teachers in Arizona" by Golf Digest. As both a Class A U.S. PGA member and a British PGA member, Crawley has been recognized for his outstanding teaching abilities. In 2002, he won the Southwest Section PGA?s Teacher of the Year Award. He also received the Horton Smith Award for education in 2000. In addition to teaching over 60,000 students, Crawley has co-authored video instruction tapes with John Jacobs and BBC/ABC golf telecaster Peter Alliss.