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Thursday, August 8, 2019

Some Thoughts on Tiger's Form

We all know that Tiger hasn't figured it out yet... but will he? Can he? That's what I want to look at today, because I think a lot of important things have been overlooked by the analysts.

Tiger at the Northern Trust

First, let's start with the obvious: The 2019 schedule change has affected everybody. When Brooks Koepka sat in front of the media after the US Open and simply said he was fried, that statement should have been given more attention than it got.

Brooks is arguably the fittest player on Tour and he has done his scheduling pretty much the way everybody thinks Tiger should have done it. And we know that Brooks has a team of advisors helping him figure out the best playing schedule to help him win the most tournaments. If that schedule left Brooks overly tired, it certainly wouldn't have worked for Tiger.

Second, we have to realize that all stress wears a body down. I've mentioned this on my blog before but many of you -- especially newer readers -- may not have seen it.

Health researchers have been studying the effects of stress on the human body for many decades. If I remember correctly, the original research began in the alpine countries of Europe, to try and help Olympic crosscountry skiers improve. It's a common realm of study everywhere now.

What the researchers found is that good stress has exactly the same effect on the human body that bad stress does. (I'm not saying that they have the same mental and emotional effects, merely that they have the same physical effects.) This led to such fitness approaches as periodization, a common training technique (especially among bodybuilders) where workouts are done in cycles.

In a typical training regimen, the athlete begins a slow workout routine that builds in intensity -- frequently over a three-month stretch -- and then the athlete stops working out for a prescribed period of time so the body has time to recover and rebuild muscle. Unless muscles are given the time to completely rebuild, their potential growth is severely limited.

That also means that, if the body isn't given sufficient time to recover, no matter how well every other fundamental has been followed, the body will break down. That's why people so often get sick after a long stressful period -- when they finally get a chance to relax, their bodies automatically begin a recovery cycle which drains energy needed for normal activity. A side effect is a loss of mental drive -- in other words, you just want to rest.

I suspect that's why Tiger got sick after he won the Masters. His fused back has eliminated the constant pain he felt before (let's not underestimate that) but it makes everything a bit harder than it was before.  He had been pushing himself for at least 15-18 months by the Masters, and his body simply couldn't take anymore. Add that to the newly compressed Tour schedule and it's no wonder he hasn't seemed to be as healthy as we'd like.

And when you add in the normal letdown after a huge accomplishment -- a letdown that generally means you need time to both celebrate what you did and reevaluate what your new goals should be -- Tiger's relatively poor performance and apparent lack of energy since the Masters make perfectly good sense.

In other words, I don't think his current lack of form is a cause for worry. I think this is an expected result of his shockingly successful comeback over the last two years, and all he needs is an extended time of rest. I don't mean that he doesn't do any work on his game during that time. Rather, he just needs to noticeably reduce his workload for a while and allow his body to rebuild and regain its strength.

If I'm correct, that less intense time will result in a complete recovery from which his body will be ready to increase its strength and endurance. Don't forget -- the years during which Tiger's back kept him from his normal golf routines resulted in him losing a large part of the base fitness he built up over the years. He can regain most of that, but it's going to take longer than he wants -- probably another year or two to get where he needs to be.

In the meantime, the rest he has taken since THE OPEN may have given him enough recovery time to play two or three decent weeks during the FedExCup Playoffs. The key word here is may, because we don't know how much that run to the Masters took out of him.

But I'm optomistic about his future. If he's willing to put up with less-than-stellar performances during a small handful of events over the rest of the year, I see no reason he couldn't hit 2020 armed with a useful knowledge of how to build his schedule and a decent chance at another major -- or even two -- next year.

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