What went wrong for Tiger Woods at the British Open
I can only imagine the letdown Tiger Woods and "Team Tiger" are feeling at the moment. Imagine his poor pilots — they probably intended a weekend golf trip of their own as they waited for Tiger to load the Claret Jug into the plane on Sunday night.
I especially feel sorry for Hank Haney, and yet envy him at the same time. He has coached Tiger during a five-year period which for most players would be a hall-of-fame career. Yet here we are wondering what went wrong because Tiger missed a cut at a major, really for the first time (missing the cut at the 2006 U.S. Open right after his father died doesn't count).
Like every other teacher and golfer in the world, I have my take on why Tiger missed the cut at Turnberry. First, here are the technical details of why I think Tiger displayed the lack of ball control during the middle of Friday's round.
Tiger's swing produces a low launch, relatively high-spin ball flight with his driver. He does this because he likes to shape the ball (probably more than any other elite player in the game). From data gathered at tournaments we know that Tiger has a downward attack angle into the ball with his driver. This downward angle of attack is 4 to 5 degrees, whereas the most efficient drivers have a positive attack angle of about 4 to 5 degrees. The physical properties that a downward angle of attack put on the ball not only lower the launch but they make the ball fly to the right of the target line. To offset this, the player must swing left of target, something Tiger doesn't do. Tiger also believes that a weak grip coupled with a lot of forearm rotation both in the backswing and the downswing is the correct way to square the clubface. When his timing is good, this method is great and we all know he can produce phenomenal results.
Enter Turnberry: An extremely difficult golf course with crosswinds and the pressure of playing in a major championship. Yes, Tiger feels pressure!
The instinct of most players playing in the wind is to move the ball back in their stance. Moving the ball back moves the starting line of the ball to the right. This, coupled with Tiger's downward angle of attack, produces a ball flight starting a long way to the right! Tiger being Tiger, he can save the swing with his hand-and-eye coordination some of the time, but he can't save it all of the time and that's why Tiger was back in Florida this weekend. So rather than lauding Tiger and Hank's brilliant work after Tiger won another major, we are discussing what went wrong and why he is home two days early. Such is the life of a professional golfer and the teachers who dare to teach them. Don't feel sorry for us — we have the greatest job in the world!
If there is something else going on in Tiger's world only a few on the inside of his camp will ever know the true details. Tiger knows that he is not the story this week so he left quietly, telling us only that he was hungry and wanted to eat dinner.
Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Jon Tattersall is co-founder of Golf Performance Partners in Atlanta.