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Friday, July 17, 2015

Expectation and Reality

Yes, I guess I'm on another rant. But I just can't believe what I'm hearing.

TigerI've been pretty vocal about my frustration with the unrealistic expectations the golf world has for Tiger Woods. (If you've somehow missed them, my most recent rant can be read here.) Nevertheless I thought I had come to grips with the idea that golf analysts seem utterly unaware of how complex the human body is, with how difficult it is to regain skill levels after serious illness or injury, and with their general inability to realize that Tiger is -- for all the amazing things he has done -- still very human.

But what I heard Thursday night has just blown me away.

I heard Tiger totally dismissed from any possible return to competitive form. I heard that Tiger should have suddenly "re-emerged" at St. Andrews and the fact that he didn't pretty much means he's washed up. And I heard nothing to indicate that anybody believes Tiger could have the same problems that any normal athlete would have and might need more than a few months to completely rebuild his swing and his body.

In short, I heard the people who are constantly amazed every time Tiger defies their expectations just write him off. And I just don't get it.

The irony is that, earlier this week, Tiger said something in his pre-Open press conference that may have been very telling about his swing problems... and the analysts seem to have missed it entirely.

Let me point it out to you. It was so simple, so blunt, that everybody seems to have missed it.
In answer to one of the questions, Tiger simply mentioned that he had heard various opinions about how long it takes to recover from back surgery, and he now believed the folks who told him it takes about a year were correct.
In that one statement Tiger made a tacit admission -- that he came back too soon. And in that admission is the implication that his back is only recently beginning to feel "right" again -- not that his back was still hurting, but merely that it hadn't felt quite the way he expected and that perhaps it hadn't been performing quite the way he had hoped.

Or, to put it another way, perhaps Tiger has only recently been physically able to move the way his swing needs him to move, and therefore he's not quite as far along in the rebuild as we have all thought.

Yeah, I know I'm writing a lot into a single statement. But bear in mind that it's the first time that he has admitted that his back took longer to heal than he told us, and that it follows on the comments he made at Greenbrier where he cautioned fans not to expect him to "get it back" overnight.

So the immediate questions are:
  1. Will Tiger make the cut today?
  2. And how long will it be before we can tell if the new swing is working?
I don't know the answer to the first one. I won't be surprised if he does simply because he played holes 11-18, which were the holes playing into the wind on Thursday, in -1 (1 birdie and 7 pars). The wind is supposed to be up big time today, and one of the analysts -- I think it was Aaron Oberholser -- suggested that 75 might be a great score. You can be sure Tiger spent some time on the range yesterday, so something near par just might be possible and he might make the cut.

Of course, that's conjecture. He might miss the cut badly. We'll find out later today.

In the long term, I don't think it really matters. It's pretty clear to me that Tiger's back has slowed his progress down more than we thought and he's only now beginning to feel really good physically. If that's truly the case, it may be another 3 months or so before we can even begin to make an adequate assessment of where Tiger's game is headed.

But at some point the golfing world needs to get a sense of perspective. Human bodies are intricate things that we don't fully understand, despite all our advances in medicine, and we certainly can't make them heal any quicker than they want to. And when I last checked, Tiger was still human.

It would be nice if we treated him like it.

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