Sorry, Folks, Tiger Woods Is Not Peter Pan

[This is the second of three Tiger Woods-related pieces I will write this week. In this one, Section A deals with age, Section B with injury.]

Section A: There is a reason the PGA created a tour for players who have reached age 50. And there’s a reason a lot of 40-something former PGA Tour pros can’t wait for their 50th birthdays.

Age matters.

After a certain age, all things being equal, our golf skills begin to diminish. That’s undeniable. Non-negotiable. For years, age 35 or thereabouts was considered the sweet spot for golf performance. Nowadays, most seem to think the peak comes even earlier.

No one would claim the prime time for touring pros comes after age 40. In fact, the common image for a PGA Tour player in that age group is of a pro hanging on for dear life, playing lesser events on sponsor exemptions, trying to hold his game together until his 50th birthday arrives. When he turns 50, he finds himself a “young gun” once again, playing against even older players on the Senior Tour.

Tiger Woods is 39 years old. And you’ve heard it before: He’s an old 39, having had numerous injuries and surgical procedures.

Woods apologists often point to “ancient warriors” like Hogan or Nicklaus or Vijay Singh: Hogan won the Triple Crown at age 40; Nicklaus won the Masters at age 46; Vijay’s amazing peak came at ages 40 through 42.

Closer examination, however, shows those three anomalies are not so anomalous after all. Nicklaus won a grand total of five times after turning 38. Hogan never won again after his 40th year. Even Vijay, a late bloomer with no history of injury, won his last at age 45, just four years after his 9-win season, his best ever.

And for every Hogan and Nicklaus, who did wonderful, if limited, things post-40, there are far more examples of guys who did the opposite. Tom Watson won only three times after the age of 34. Seve Ballesteros won only three times after age 35. The list of great players who never won much after their mid-30s is long.

For many years, until quite recently, we were lectured that Woods was immune to aging because “he’s an athlete” who works out hard in the gym. We were assured he would be pretty much the same player at age 60 as he was at age 32.  Now, of course, we see Woods’s focus on body-building in the gym led to injury and early decay in his playing ability, quite the opposite of the narrative.

Many Woods fans are new to golf and have never before watched a favorite player go, inevitably, into decline. They hear about Jack’s famous Masters victory at age 46 and treat it not as the joyous one-in-a-million sports miracle it was, but as a matter-of-course outcome due all Great Players.

After his recent 82 at Phoenix, Woods fans are getting a dose of reality. They suddenly have little desire to back him by wagering, even though he has won many times at the San Diego Open. There is a massive perception change.  Last year the odds on Woods winning were 5-2.  This year, they are 50-1.  That’s a staggering change in the public’s perception, especially given Woods is now fully healthy (or so he says).

Of course, you know as well as I do, should Woods shoot 72-70-68-70 this week and finish T-28, the fan and media narrative will quickly return to a fantasyland where Tiger Woods is Peter Pan and never ages.

Section B: Much has been said and written about Woods’s “new swing” this year. We have been told the swing is more upright. We have been told Woods is producing greater ball speed. We have been told this is the old swing of his glory days.

However, no one has speculated that Woods changed to this new upright stance because it is the only way he can swing without feeling pain or re-injuring himself, even though it seems a rather obvious theory to me.

While the golf media never tires of discussing Woods, there are certain topics they avoid like the plague. The limits placed upon Woods by injury and age are as unacknowledged and unspoken as the sex scandal and Woods’s ties to PED doctors.

That explains why the meme du jour is that Woods has “the yips,” that the problem is all in Woods’s head. Because age and physical deterioration are permanent. With a mental problem, well, gosh, you can just go see a psychiatrist or read “I’m Okay, You’re Okay.” Just flip a switch and you’ll have Tiger 2000 all over again. Langer and DiMarco had the putting yips, and they cured them, doncha know. But with age and injury, there is no such switch.

We know this: Woods repeatedly injured and re-injured himself last year. Both before and after his back surgery, he fought pain and played poorly.

Here is a likely scenario: During the off season, Woods healed completely; he went out to hit balls; he re-injured his back; he had to find a new swing fast.  The swing he found, this new one with a markedly more upright stance, allows him to play injury-free. The problem is: he can’t play well with this swing.

So Woods has a dilemma: (1) Play poorly and remain healthy, hoping he can eventually hone the swing into something PGA-worthy; (2) Play better now using last year’s swing, but knowing re-injury is almost a certainty.

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18 Responses to Sorry, Folks, Tiger Woods Is Not Peter Pan

  1. Sports-realist says:

    LOL…Just checked CBS golf..5 of the 7 articles are about, you guessed it—Frank Stallone, I mean Eldrick……Did NOT read any of the articles, but CBS actually has an article titled: WOODS OLD BAG SPONSOR NOW MAKING DRONES………????? And that’s a golf article? What are we supposed to learn about golf from that article? Oh wait, we aren’t…..I REFUSE to read that crap….Not that drones aren’t interesting and scary and probably another sign of the END OF THE WORLD, but is Woods also connected to the apocolypse….

    • lannyh says:

      Well, admittedly, it’s not golf-related, but I read Kyle’s article with interest (which is a real rarity). But then I’ve been following the company since Woods announced his association. I’ve written about it several times, and it seems like a scam. These worthless penny stock shell companies change hands like this a lot, often for reasons of pump-and-dump. When Woods was with Fuse, they once extended the time period for some warrants by seven weeks. In the middle of that seven weeks, they had Woods appear on Maria Bartiromo’s show (then on CNBC). Not like they had Woods on there trying to pump up the warrants before they expired worthless…

      I give Kyle a little credit for poking fun at Woods’s erstwhile sponsor, showing how shady an organization it was. But, yeah, it’s not golf-related. I wonder where Kyle heard about it.

      I also wonder if it is in his CBS contract that he must use the term “Big Cat” in every single one of his articles.

      • Sports-realist says:

        Yeah I’ve read your articles on those, very interesting, and not surprising….Just shows us how Woods money and sponsors are DRYING UP…Why else would you take on shady groups, unless money was an issue……

  2. Sports-realist says:

    Previously you had stated that Woods is out of the top 50 owgr, which affects his participation in the WGC events, unless he would start winning? Obviously he automatically qualifies for the majors, but he really could miss out on alot of tournaments….Wouldn’t surprise me if he starts playing the ‘po-dunk’ tournaments, to raise his owgr and to make money……

    • lannyh says:

      Right now he wouldn’t qualify for the Cadillac, and he can’t fall much farther or he’d be out of the Match Play, too. (I would actually find that funny, since they changed the location and format to please him and Phil.) If he gets his game back at all, I would expect him to play some of those podunk events. Until he gets to 40 Counting Events, he’s spotting everyone else a big advantage, forfeiting about 1/3 of his OWGR point average right now. He can get in any regular season event he wants, but not the WGC tourneys, which are, besides the majors, those that attract the most attention and top players. If his game remains like last week, however, missing those events will be the least of his problems.

      • Sports-realist says:

        I can almost guarantee you, that if woods sucks again this week, that he will WITHDRAW, and claim injury….THEN the golfchannel will again bring in doctors and specialists to bla, bla, bla,……Ofcourse then they can RE-start talking about ANOTHER RETURN in the future…..See i think we’ve figured out how this works now…

  3. JoseyWales says:

    Excellent…those 50-1 odds are not just numbers…the gamblers are sharp…they know a bad bet when they see it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Speaking of numbers. Over the last 6 rounds of golf Jordan Spieth has bettered Woods by 43 strokes. 26 over 4 rounds at the Hero. 17 over 2 rounds at WM. Average over 6 strokes per round.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Obviously age is a factor. But, when talking about age and physical limitations, the short game is the least those two things. If age and physical limitations had that big of an effect then nobody over 60 would be any good at chipping and putting. And yet, many players over 60 have very good short games…..because they have to if they want to score.

    It’s quite obvious….he has the yips.

    • lannyh says:

      Well, my theory is he can’t physically chip the way he has in the past either. It’s either uncomfortable or strains in a way to cause injury; maybe after long practice sessions. But the short game is hardly his only problem. Look how wild his drives are(which, admittedly, is a longtime problem), and how many times he HAS to chip, meaning missed greens. Maybe the injury/surgerical procedures have wrecked him. These approach shots falling well short of the green have been going concurrently with the back issues.

      • Anonymous says:

        While age and physical limitations, in my mind, have little effect on ability to chip and putt, it can have a huge impact on the full swing which includes the driver. That’s a different issue, though. Point is, a player doesn’t go from having one of the best short games ever, to this, without some sort of mental obstacle, like the yips.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The 43 strokes I’m referring to are over Woods last two outings. Not necessarily head to head. 4 rounds at the Hero, Woods was 26 adrift. 2 rounds at WM (head to head ) Woods was 17 adrift. 43 strokes over 6 rounds is massive.

    • lannyh says:

      Oh, okay, I gotcha. Yeah, that’s massive. What is it, more than 3 a side?

      I’ll try to post the head-to-head when grouped together. I think there are six of those and Jordan is 5-0-1. I’m not absolutely certain those are all the times they have been paired.

      • Anonymous says:

        I didn’t investigate all the head to heads. Last weeks was brutal. I think Reed was 15 ahead after 36 holes and Spieth was 17. In professional golfing terms that is off the charts. If you will permit me an analogy? Woods efforts last Thursday and Friday were like Ali climbing back in the ring aged 67. Joe, the caddy, should have thrown in the white towel. I feel for Joe. If he signed up, to the notoriously tight Tiger Woods, on a %age basis he will be on Obama Food Stamps.

  7. Pingback: Lanny H Nails It! (shows why this is the only golf website that matters) | Lanny H Golf

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