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Tiger Woods: What’s Wrong And How To Fix It

On his website two days ago, Tiger Woods announced that he would not be playing Arnold Palmer’s event next week at Bay Hill, an event that he has won 8 times.

Woods also said that: “I’ve put in a lot of time and work on my game and I’m making strides. But like I’ve said, I won’t return to the PGA Tour until my game is tournament ready and I can compete at the highest level.”

What Woods suggests in that statement is that all that ails him are the mechanics of his swing, but he is completely wrong. As are any commentator, pundit or expert out there who makes the case that since he is working with the fourth coach in his pro career, that his issues are swing related. Categorically, absolutely, not.

Working with new swing coach, Chris Como, Woods’ swing is starting to look remarkably similar to what he did when he was working with Butch Harmon (his teacher from 1993-2004). Many agree that Woods’ swing and game in the early 2000’s were at their ethereal best. This writer certainly subscribes to that theorem. Ergo, his “new” movement is basically a motion that he is familiar with and played with for years.

Tiger Woods’ problems are all in his head. His mind, to be specific.

If you think that you can do something, you probably will.

If you know that you can do something, you certainly will.

If you don’t believe that you can do something, you have absolutely no chance whatsoever.

And if you “don’t think” at all you will be at the absolute zenith of your capabilities. Anytime any athlete (professional or amateur) does something well, they are performing, by rote. Having consciously practiced a skill (when the mind is engaged) until such time as it becomes a habit (when the mind is not engaged), is the art-form of excellence. To perform without conscious thought is to perform with an exalted grace. It is: perfection.

If you watched the painful second round of the Phoenix Open in which Woods shot a career high 82, you saw the once infallible Woods flub one chip/pitch after another, which he would later blame on being “between two swings”. Changing (or going back to his old one) his swing has nothing to do with his short game, but all the thinking he was doing most assuredly did.

Tiger Woods has the “Yips”: the physical cause for which, are an involuntary flinch or movement of the wrists or hands, at impact. Most golfers associate the Yips with putting but they can also creep into any part of the game.

The real reason that a person gets the Yips is because doubt has been created in their mind. After a series of failures, that doubt becomes exacerbated and leads to fear. A fear of failure. The mind is storing all the bad things that have happened and becomes cluttered with negativity.

And along comes “thinking”.

Almost immediately after winning the 1991 British Open, Australian star, Ian Baker-Finch, began tinkering with his golf swing to try to gain more distance. Four years and countless coaches and tips later, Baker-Finch missed 32 consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour. Baker-Finch’s Achilles was his driver. He would be able to hit 50 perfect drives on the range before playing and then snap-hook his drive on the first tee 80 yards to the left.

Things got so bad that when paired with Arnold Palmer in Palmer’s final British Open at St. Andrews in 1997, Baker-Finch hit his first tee shot out of bounds to the left, which is almost impossible to do. Baker-Finch would go on to shoot a 92 in that round and much to his credit, rather than quitting and not playing his second round, he persevered and played. It would be the final straw for Baker-Finch as he would walk away from playing professionally. In the ensuing years the affable Aussie has become a very popular TV commentator and plays almost every day. He consistently shoots scores in the 60’s and plays an occasional Champions Tour event, but plays now with a freedom that was sadly missing in his prime.

German star, and 2-time Masters Champion, Bernhard Langer, has overcome the Yips with his putting on three different occasions, which is remarkable. After winning his first European Tour event as an 18-year old, Langer got his first “case” of the Yips, which included once double-hitting a putt and on another occasion 4-putting from 3-feet. Langer would recover and become the leading money-winner on the European Tour in 1981 and win his first Masters in 1985, before getting the Yips again.

Fellow German, 30-year old Martin Kaymer, had an incredible year in 2014 winning both the Players Championship and the U.S. Open, but it was a renaissance for Kaymer. Kaymer had endured a terrible slump in his game from 2011-2013 after winning the 2010 PGA Championship, but everything changed when Kaymer did the most simple of things; he stopped thinking.

And that is exactly what Tiger Woods has to do. He needs to stop thinking so much: and just play.