Tiger Woods is excelling with a focus on 'feel.' Here's how you can do the same.
By T.J. Auclair
For the first time in a long time, Tiger-mania is back.
No one has ever moved the needle in golf the way Tiger Woods does. When he's playing well, all eyes are on his every move.
Over the weekend at the Valspar Championship, Woods was very much in contention and would eventually finish T2, one stroke behind winner Paul Casey.
It was a monstrous stride for the man who was once one of the most dominant athletes of all time.
Over the last few weeks, Woods has often spoken about how he's playing with more of a "feel" approach these days.
So, what does all that mean?
We had a chat with 2013 PGA National Teacher of the Year Lou Guzzi to pin down some answers.
"Let's make one thing clear right away," Guzzi said, "What Tiger is saying does not take away from the instruction side of things at all. Players like Tiger have such a long history of play and feel from different coaches. He reached a point where, like Ben Hogan said, he had to 'dig it out of the dirt.' The journey he's on now is to identify what works for him at his age to play at a high level. Only he knows what that entails."
Watching Tiger in 2018, it's clear that he's a golfer right now who is playing with much more clarity.
He's not overthinking. He's imagining the shot he wants to hit and then he hits it.
Guzzi mentioned a funny story about one time when the great Bobby Jones was asked what he thought about when he swung a club.
Replied Jones: "The last thing that worked."
"As it relates to Tiger, he's allowing himself to do the things he was taught or coached over the years that have worked best for him," Guzzi said. "All the experiences he's had in the past -- he has this arsenal of shots he knows he can pull off. It's just a matter of getting out of his own way, something he seems to be doing just fine right now."
Don't get it twisted, though. Just because Tiger has a wealth of experience to fall back on doesn't mean he isn't putting in the work.
Look back on that chip-in birdie on the ninth hole in Saturday's third round at Innisbrook. Tiger executed it to perfection and the reaction suggested that he expected the ball to go in the hole.
"It's obvious that he's working really, really hard on his game -- big time," Guzzi said. "Let's not discount that. When he was struggling with the chipping, he was talking about his struggles there and spent a few days at his house chipping all day long to fix it. Sometimes you just have to keep doing it until you do it. The way he's been talking, the 'getting back into the arena' part takes time to get comfortable again. He knows how to win, but he's still human and he's an older Tiger Woods. He needs to figure out how to be the Tiger Woods of today, not the Tiger of 2000-01. If he stays healthy, he's going to win again and again and again."
So, after 79 PGA Tour wins and 14 major championships -- both second all time -- what could possibly be the motivation for Woods at this point in his career?
Guzzi says it's quite simple, actually: his children.
"I think he's incredibly motivated by his kids," Guzzi said. "That's powerful. He's got this little window of time to show his kids that side of his life. One of the things about elite athletes, like Tiger Woods, they have a motivation -- an intrinsic motivation -- 'I want my kids to see me at a high level because they've never seen that.' He has this new drive."
And, again, taking more of that "feel" approach on the course, which is allowing him to swing freely.
"A good friend of mine is Tony Dovolani, a world dance champion -- an elite champion -- who has been on Dancing With the Stars," Guzzi said. "One time when we were talking about dance, it struck me when Tony said that he never tries to do the move exactly the same way, ever, because we're human and we have to let it flow. So if a world champion is not trying to do it the same way every time, why are we? I tie that to the golf swing and, specifically, Tiger right now. It's great information. To say you never try to do it the same every time -- if someone tries to do that with the swing every time, you're not going to have the ability to swing freely. Tiger is starting to look like he's swinging freely."