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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What You Can Learn in Just Two Days

This blog tries to focus on helping weekend golfers improve their game when they don't have a lot of time to spare. So today I thought it would be fun to see just how much you could learn in a very short time period.

Like maybe two days. You know, like Tiger had last Thursday and Friday.

Tiger from the bunker

The media has been lamenting the fact that Tiger only got two days' work in... and let's face it, those days weren't that great. They think he should try getting a few more reps at another event, and it's possible that he might try to get in the John Deere Classic (yeah, like they'd say, "sorry, Tiger, we're out of spots") or the Scottish Open. He has until Friday afternoon to do so.

I doubt that he will, though. While Tiger made it clear that he wouldn't have played except for his charity, the major setup of the course made it a logical choice for a man planning to return at a major. He may have already learned enough to keep him busy until the Open Championship. Let's take a look...

Of course, first and foremost, he's learned that his back is definitely ahead of schedule. He spent two days on a major-quality layout, dealing with the effects of adrenaline, and hacking out of rough and hazards. His doctors are probably relieved that his first foray into the field only lasted two days. After all, do you really think they've let him stay on his feet for several hours very often? If he felt OK Saturday morning he's already got some serious confidence in his back's health and learned a great deal about keeping it that way at Hoylake.

He made a small grip adjustment at the pro-am, so that's been tested in the heat of competition. It's a bit ironic that his driver was pretty good while his irons were off on Thursday, but things flipped vice-versa on Friday. I suspect that gave Sean Foley something to look at -- maybe it was the result of another adjustment they made on Thursday night as an experiment, just to see how it performed?

At any rate, I'm guessing there's some stinger practice in Tiger's near future.

Growing the Burmuda rough higher at his home practice area didn't give him the results he'd hoped for in the rye grass of Congressional. I'm also guessing the sand at Congressional was different from what he practiced in down Florida way, given that he expected his short game to be sharper. The adrenaline boost may have affected that part of his game as well. In any case, Tiger knows he'll need a couple of extra days to practice short game at Hoylake.

Don't underestimate seeing how adrenaline affected his back. I'm guessing that was a huge question mark for him before this event.

And bear in mind that Open greens are never as firm as the ones here in America. I suspect Tiger isn't too worried about them yet, as his putting stroke was a bit strong. It's probably about right for Open green speeds.

Strategically, Tiger has learned what sort of limitations his back may put on his shotmaking. That one-legged shot from the creek would have told him a lot, as would all the uneven lies he played from in the rough. Back injuries affect leg strength, you know. And he's learned what his "new" tendencies might be under pressure, which he couldn't have learned at home.

Because his practice hasn't been done under major conditions, he could think his impact was solid when it wasn't quite accurate enough to get the spin he needed. As long as he knows that, he can find a way to duplicate the necessary conditions -- playing off tight lies, for instance.

There was some concern that one of Tiger's responses in the media tent indicated that he was unaware of the conditions at Hoylake. Despite appearances, I suspect he's gotten some intel from friends who have already been there. And after 16 years, I doubt that will prove to be a problem for Tiger in any case. He and Joey know how to scope things out pretty quickly, don't you think?

These are just a few things that seem likely to me, and I'm sure Tiger's experience will give him insight into many things I know nothing about. Just imagine how much a little reflection might teach you about your own game!

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