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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Thoughts on Tiger and Lydia Ko's Problems

Though many fans worry about the swing problems Tiger and Lydia have gone through recently, their problems are neither serious nor permanent. Today I'd like to take a quick look at them.

Lydia Ko laughing

I'll start with Tiger, simply because he just came off a Masters performance that shocked many people. If you read my "5 to Watch" post about the Masters, you know I didn't include Tiger as a favorite. To quote myself:
After some personal debate, I have decided not to include Tiger in this list. While he has improved much faster than I expected and I won't be surprised if he does win, he doesn't make my "5 to Watch" list. Why? Because I still see him making strategic errors coming down the stretch in regular events, and I suspect he's still learning how his body reacts to adrenaline after the fusion. That can only be amplified in a major, and he hasn't even teed it up in a major in two years. You have to go all the way back to the 2015 Masters just to find a major when he played the weekend!

For the record, I do expect Tiger to contend this week and I expect getting a "major rep" will help him start winning the regular tournaments soon. But I feel that he's still one, perhaps two, majors away from being a serious favorite in the big ones. So, barring any wins before the US Open, I'm targeting Carnoustie as a realistic chance for a Tiger major.
While Tiger continued to have problems with his driver -- a chronic problem during his career, and one for which he continues to try new equipment -- he himself noted that the main problem was his iron play. He simply couldn't control his distance, and that's a primary symptom of uncontrolled adrenaline. This shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone, for the exact reasons I gave in the quote above. The sheer joy of getting to tee it up in a major after so long must have played havoc with his adrenaline levels! And when he went out Friday with the potential of getting into contention... well, you know what happened.

And Tiger knows this as well. He has repeatedly said since he came back that he knows how to get into contention but, once there, he has to get the job done. But he can't do that until he gets his "feels" back. He's talking about controlling his adrenaline, pure and simple, because adrenaline changes how your body feels.

The fact that Tiger got to play the weekend should help him here. Unfortunately, the only way to learn to control your adrenaline in a major is to play more majors. But since major "feels" are more extreme than weekly event "feels," just having one major weekend under his belt should help him zero in on how his adrenaline levels affect his "new" body. I suspect we'll see more consistent performances in the regular events pretty soon. After that, it's just a matter of getting more major reps.

As for Lydia... with all the changes she's made to equipment and caddies and instructors and everything else, her problems could come from anything, right? I don't think so -- at least, not her current problems. I think most of the other changes have basically taken hold. No, the problem is much simpler yet nobody seems to have mentioned it.

Lydia has lost weight. Estimates run from ten to twenty pounds. And when you're as small as Lydia, that's a major body change.

Major enough to cause swing problems. Over the years we've seen players lose weight and then seen their games adversely affected.

I remember years ago when Joanne Carner, alias Big Momma, lost a sizable amount of weight. She never got skinny, but she was noticeably smaller. However, her game went south along with her weight. She lost her ability to consistently hit shots accurately, which was the strength of her game both as an amateur and a pro. I don't know if it was a conscious choice but she eventually gained most of her weight back.

David Duval also lost a noticeable amount of weight when he was challenging Tiger for #1, but he faced a different problem. David's game didn't suffer -- but his body did. Perhaps because the whole idea of weight training for golf was relatively new, David ended up with back problems that eventually ended his career. And he too eventually gained the weight back before he began to get better.

Why does weight loss affect a player's swing? The swing itself may not feel much different, but as arms and torso become smaller, the swing planes and angles created by those feels DO change. And then players are forced to relearn their swings, which means they're thinking more about mechanics than shotmaking, and... well, you can see how the problems begin.

Personally, Lydia looks a bit too thin to me. But whether you agree or not, she's definitely thin enough that her swing MUST have changed. Given the number of changes she's made to her swing over the past few years, I don't see this as a long-term problem. If her weight stays stable, she'll probably make the proper adjustments and get her game back on track -- although I don't know how quickly that will happen. Each case is different.

My point here is that not all swing problems the pros face stem from the kind of mechanical issues we typically blame them on. Emotional stress in one's personal life can cause inexplicable swing problems, but those problems can vanish very soon after the source of the stress vanishes.

A recent sickness can also cause problems. Jordan Spieth has been in a bit of a slump simply because it takes a while to completely recover from mono, which he had over the Christmas holidays. And Jimmy Walker's bout with lyme disease is still causing him some lingering symptoms.

The simple truth is that ANYTHING that interferes with your body's normal function can have a dramatic impact on your game. But that doesn't mean you need to make dramatic swing changes to fix it.

Sometimes you just need to give your body time to heal and adjust naturally. And that's all Tiger and Lydia need... TIME.


  1. I agree that it was a mistake for Lydia to lose 15 pounds. Some trainer convinced her it was a great idea and she bought it. Hopefully, she will recover and start playing the golf she is capable of playing.

  2. I do not think the Tiger will growl again during his career. There are too many good players on the tour who hit 3 woods 300 yards. His time has come and gone.

  3. I don’t feel bloated, which I think is a huge thing,” she said. “I’m trying to gain more muscle and lose a bit of the unnecessary fat. Everybody seems like they are hitting it longer and longer.” ANOREXIA TALKING!