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Saturday, May 9, 2015

About My Picks... and Tiger's Game

At the halfway point we know a bit more about how THE PLAYERS is going to shake out. As it turns out, it looks like this will be a sprint to the finish since no one has been able to distance themselves from the field.

Not yet, anyway.

All-in-all, my "5 to Watch" aren't doing so bad:
  • Jordan Spieth kinda shocked us all by missing the cut. However, even #2 in the world is entitled to an off-week every so often.
  • Erik Compton and Tiger Woods are both at even par (T61), barely making the cut yet still only 8 shots off the lead of Kevin Na and Jerry Kelly.
  • Jim Furyk continued his good play from past weeks. He sits at -4 (T13).
  • And Ben Martin is at -5 (T7), the best of the bunch and a mere 3 shots off the lead. You guys thought I was crazy to pick him, didn't you?
Of course, the big talk has been about Tiger's struggles with his game this week. The fact that his injured hand and the jet lag from his China trip cost him 3 weeks of practice has everybody debating what his priorities should be and how long it will take him to get things back in shape.

I thought I'd pipe in with a few thoughts about Tiger's journey back to a competitive game as well.

It's easy to forget that it's been only a bit more than a year since Tiger had back surgery. In the past, when Tiger wanted to change his swing he had time to think about what changes he wanted to pursue and who he wanted to coach him through them. This time there was no planning -- Tiger simply found himself lying on his back in pain and wondering if he would ever be able to play golf again. (If he would ever be able to play with his kids again, for that matter.) He's had to figure out what his body would allow him to do and then pick his best option from that.

That's not the best way to embark on a swing rebuild!

When Tiger says he's played pretty well this week -- for example, that he's been driving it pretty well -- some folks have laughed at him but his stats do bear that out.
  • He's made 11 birdies for the two rounds, which is T4 in the field.
  • He's hit 17 of 28 fairways -- nearly 61%, which is pretty darn good for Tiger. He's never been particularly good at hitting the short grass.
  • And he's second in Putts per GIR.
Granted, he's only hit a little over 55% of his GIR (20/36), but his assessment that he could have been two or three shots lower each round is reasonable. Thursday he left at least two putts (that I saw) just short but dead in the jaws, and I've seen several putts graze the edge of the hole both days. And he's hit some pretty impressive recovery shots on a course where he's never had a lot of success, despite having two wins there.

Yeah, it's easy to imagine him at -4 had a few more putts dropped. All things considered, he really has played pretty well.

Best of all, now he'll get two more rounds of competitive reps. Although he's unlikely to win this week -- despite me picking him as a player to watch -- I'd say Tiger is on a pretty good track to keep improving as he makes his comeback from surgery.

And that's what we're all hoping for, isn't it?

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