Posted on: March 9, 2011 2:27 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2011 5:12 pm

Short-game tweaks fuel longer Tiger drought, too

DORAL, Fla. -- Of all the unsolicited feedback, be it scathing criticism or outright encouragement, that Tiger Woods has received since attempting his latest swing changes, perhaps the most interesting portion has been missed.

It's in his game's very minutaie, so to speak.

Looking back and applying building-contractor terms, the swing changes made under former teachers Butch Harmon and Hank Haney seemed like kitchen renovations. However, the newly minted Sean Foley process is more akin to a complete, 14-club teardown, right to the cinder-block bones of the short game.

Even when his game was otherwise raggedy during the transitional times working with Haney and Harmon, Woods' short game usually kept him in the ballgame. That hasn't yet been the case this season.

At the Cadillac Championship on Wednesday, Woods attempted to explain why his short game has deteriorated over the past few months -- because, for the first time, that phase of the bag has been completely overhauled, too.

Without getting needlessly technical, Woods said his "release" point under Foley also has changed with chips, pitches and putts, so he's had to start anew from scratch in that regard as well.

At age 35, it was pointed out.

"I changed my entire release and how I did it with Hank," Woods said. "You want to have the same type of swing with the putter all the way up to the driver. It's the same motion just smaller, and the pitch shot is the same."

Of course, the degree to whcih the short game should be affected by an overall swing change is debatable and will surely fuel a few fires in the Internet chat-o-sphere. 

"If I use one swing, if I hit thousands of chip shots and only hit a few hundred balls, well if I'm doing the same release that I used to, that's totally contrary to what I'm doing with the swing," he said.

In other words, whereas his short game was able a stable platform from which to build the rest of his game, it's in transition at the moment, too.

Interestingly, though the rounder and flatter Haney swing was a big departure from the Harmon method, Haney said Wednesday that the only adjustments Woods made in the short game during their six years together was in the former world No. 1's bunker play, because sand shots are more akin to a full swing.

"I never instituted any change to his putting or for that matter his chipping or his pitching," Haney said in an email Wednesday.

Harmon, working this week as an analyst for Sky Sports in Europe, heard about Woods' comprehensive short-game revamp from a reporter. In their years together, Harmon said they often worked on the short game, but not as an extension of the full swing.

"Did he really say that?" Harmon said. "I am surprised to hear that."

Posted on: May 6, 2010 7:30 pm

Woods on defensive after opening 70 at Sawgrass

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- This time, Tiger Woods actually laughed.

Pressed again for an answer to the status of his arrangement with swing coach Hank Haney, the subject of nearly as much gossip lately as Woods himself, the world No. 1 actually chuckled at the suggestion that Haney is on borrowed time. Just to confuse the issue further, however, Woods then suggested that he's been fixing his recent swing faults by himself.

After missing the cut in spectacular fashion last week, Woods finished with a 2-under 70 in the first round of the Players Championship on Thursday, leaving him four shots off the lead.

After skidding in with a 79 in his second round last week to miss the cut for his sixth time as a professional, and hitting five balls in the water in a nine-hole practice session on Tuesday, Woods chose to play defense.

"Hank and I talk every day, so nothing's changed," Woods said. "According to the press, I've fired him five times by now over the course of my four years, or whatever it was, six years?"

Moments later, though, as he detailed the tweaks he made to rectify last week's issues, Woods indicated that he found a way to draw the ball all by himself.

"Yeah, yeah," he said.

Another day, another nagging headache. But at least as far as the golf-course grades go, Woods was back on terra firma and not drowning in lakes or pine straw. He didn't have a bogey on the card until the 18th and hit nine of 14 fairways, a marked improvement over last week, when he found six fairways in two rounds before he was sent packing on the weekend.

Afterward, Woods continued to send mixed messages about how he wants his performances to be evaluated. At the Masters, Woods said he still expects to win whenever he shows up. Thursday, he backed down from that lofty self-evaluative standard.

He did the same thing last year coming off of knee surgery -- professed to being ready to win, then when his performances were judged to be below his usual standards, claimed he was being unfairly judged.

"Obviously, I've had some bad days," he said. "I've had six competitive rounds in seven months. People need to be more realistic. It takes some flow, some tournaments."

When asked about his expectations at the Masters four weeks ago, he said: "Nothing's changed, going to go out there and try to win this thing."

In one stretch spanning last Friday's round in Charlotte and part of his Sawgrass opener, Woods went 18 holes without a birdie. But he was able to laugh about a couple of his stray shots Thursday, including a pop-up 3-wood that traveled 190 yards and barely reached the fairway cut.

"Hit it straight up in the air and I could probably have caught it," he said.

Woods said his frightful practice rounds were the product of on-the-fly tinkering he was doing. Haney isn't here this week and rarely travels to non-major tournaments anymore.
"I've felt like I've done some good work this week even though reports are I was hitting all over the lot," Woods said. "But I was working on a few things. I was very comfortable with what I was working towards, and I was very excited about what was happening. 

"It was just a matter of doing it in competition, and I did it today."

Category: Golf
Tags: haney, sawgrass, woods
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