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Friday, November 18, 2011

Prisoners of the Moment

Have you ever heard that term? It means that someone's opinions are based on things that are happening right now without any real regard for what happened before or what may happen after.

I wondered what the media commentary would be like after the first round of the Presidents Cup. This seems to be the best phrase to describe what I'm hearing.

For example, on ESPN2's First and Ten (a show where this phrase gets used a lot!) they wrote off any possibility that "the old Tiger" would ever be back because he and Stricker took a bad beating. (And yes, Tiger and Stricks were the only US team to lose their match. They didn't win a single hole.) I'll grant you that 7&6 is not good.

Of course, those people also say that Tiger and Stricks played very well in the last Ryder Cup... although they got beaten 6&5 by Donald and Westwood in the 3rd session alternate shot match. You can see the scorecard here, in case you've forgotten. The match went only one more hole than Thursday's match, and that's because Stricker and Woods managed to win one hole. Just one. In both cases, Stricker and Woods lost to arguably the best team the other side could field. (Would you want to face Scott and Choi the way they were playing Thursday?)

Folks say this is a big drop-off in play for Tiger from last week. But the speed of the greens certainly had nothing to do with that, did it? After all, Augusta National greens are considered fast when they stimp at 13, but Royal Melbourne was stimping 14 in the first round and Greg Norman said it would get faster as the week went on. I feel safe saying that the Australian Open greens weren't running anywhere near that fast.

And Stricker's physical problems -- you know, the ones that made him questionable to play at all in this event -- wouldn't have had any effect on his play, would they? Just because he's had little or no practice since the FedExCup playoffs and now he's playing an event with greens running faster than a major -- why should that matter? BTW, you realize Stricks has never finished better than T6 at the Masters, don't you? And that both courses were designed by Alister MacKenzie, so they play similarly? Surely none of this has any effect on how he played Thursday.

Here are the facts: Tiger played about as well Thursday as he did last week, but the superfast greens of Royal Melbourne meant he was on the wrong side of the hole too often to capitalize. Stricker was clearly rusty from his layoff. And the team of Adam Scott and K.J. Choi were just incredible!

Plus,whether anybody likes it or not, Steve Williams is beginning to make a case that your caddy really does make a difference. I'm not saying that Adam hits the ball any different now. But watching him interview with Jimmy Roberts after the round, I was struck by just how much straighter he stands and how confident he sounds when he talks -- something that was not the case before Williams came on his bag.

Tiger clearly lacks confidence right now. In his case it's because his ball striking still isn't what it needs to be. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it: We can't assume that Tiger's "gone forever" simply because his bad shots now are actually bad. In the past he was changing a swing that worked to one he hoped would work better, while this time he's been forced to change a swing that didn't work at all. In the past when he reverted to his old swing he still got a decent shot, but no longer. Now he's in the same boat as us. And that means progress takes longer.

It feels strange being in the position of defending Tiger, but that's just the nature of this striped beast. Because when it comes to Tiger, everybody seems to be a prisoner of the moment -- whether that moment is a win from 2000 or a loss from 2011. If we were judged by the same measure we use on Tiger, we'd all cry foul. We'd bemoan the fact that nobody was cutting us any slack. After all, we're only human.

Maybe we should extend Tiger the same courtesy. Let's step out of our cages for once, huh?

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