Bubba Watson has won two of the three previous Masters; Tiger Woods has not won the same tournament in 10 years. Bubba has never been coached or had a coach as far as we know; Tiger has been coached his entire life. Bubba’s style of play is exciting but is not consistent week in, week out. Tiger’s style of play was beyond exciting and expected. Not anymore. The unexpected is fast becoming the expected and theories abound as to why. A golfer of yesteryear once dug it out of the ground. According to him, he would have arrived at his high level of play 10 years earlier had the advent of a video camera been at his disposal. He was not coached per se, but was open to advice during his evolution as a player. Yet another golfer, known for his quirky style and even quirkier personality, paralleled this same approach. He dug it out of the ground and took advice from few, let a couple of idols. Tiger Woods has espoused the view of wanting to “own his swing,” according to him, “the way Ben Hogan and Moe Norman owned their swings.” I have always had an issue with this statement as it is erroneous by nature. The procurement of such a viewpoint is perhaps the reason for the slide in Tiger’s performance the last few years, and it does not hold him in good stead as he enters the twilight of his PGA Tour career. First and foremost, many golfers own and have owned their swings. Lee Trevino, Bruce Lietzke and George Knudson certainly come to mind, as does the club member who shoots 86-90 day-in and day-out like clockwork. Lietzke developed his patented fade as a teenager and never looked back. He seldom, if ever, practiced during his PGA Tour career, taking long sabbaticals from touring life to spend time with his family and enjoy his favorite pastime, fishing. When he did show up at tour stops, as he needed to make a living, his swing and game never failed him, with top-10 finishes and the occasional victory. None other than Payne Stewart was awed. Getting back to Bubba and Tiger, is it possible there is a happy medium between no coaching and being over-coached? Yes. My opinion is Tiger has been over-coached and has a difficult time seeing the forest for the trees. During the 2002 US Open at Bethpage, I noticed a small flaw in Tiger’s swing which wasn’t allowing him to post effectively on his left side through impact. Not long afterward, he mentioned to Butch Harmon he wanted to take it to another level, wanted to “own his swing.” Butch’s response was one of maintenance. At the time and in my opinion, Tiger needed to modify his setup, which in turn would save his knee. I believe Sean Foley made the appropriate setup change to accomplish this, but to be honest, Tiger’s swing experiments since 2002 have been simply that, and have done little in his quest for perfection. Coaching today is taking on the role of over-coaching in epidemic proportions. Quality versus quality must always be the rule of thumb.
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