A few years back people were complaining about the fact that all tournaments were just about watching Tiger Woods. The last few years have seen him struggle. When I read about him winning the Masters, I was excited. I hope that he dominates the game like he used to. I thought it was fun to watch him destroy the competition.
I can see why people enjoy watching him play. Obviously he’s an extraordinary player. But as a fan, I must admit I rather enjoyed his 0-for-10 winless streak. Oh well, I won’t dispaire. Here’s hoping that this is the only major he wins this year
Why do people love to see the hero fall? I wish him well and hope the competition realy heats up.
Can’t speak for others, but in my case it’s not so much about wishing anything bad happens to Tiger. I have nothing against the guy. For me it’s just about the second part of your second sentence there: I like to see good competition and exciting events. For me, watching Tiger win majors by 10 strokes is not very entertaining. If we see instead good close battles, with each major being truly up for grabs and exciting (like this last Masters) then that’s fine by me.
I think what’s happening with Tiger is potentially very interesting. He’s already the best by far, but he’s trying to take his swing to another level and have complete control of it ala Hogan (or Moe Norman). What this means is that if he gets there-and it may take another few years to perfect, he’ll be very consistent and accurate. Hogan had incredibly consistent ball strking…but his putting and short game was average at best, compared with Tiger’s phenomenal game around the green.
I’d also like to see the ball dialed back a little, it’d bring skill more into play-it’s sad that equipment advances have evened out the field so much. There’s nothing wrong with close matches (although Tiger by 12 is ok too), but when they are close finishes between equipment assisted mediocre players then it lessens the spectacle.
It’s also a shame to see some of these courses either tricked up too much, with super fast greens and long rough, or overpowered with drivers and wedges-Hootie was complaining about a round he had with a 15 year old last week, who hit both par-5s on the back 9 with wedge.
Tiger will either end up on 12-15 Majors, or easily over 20 and a real legend.
Here are some stories describing the abilities of Hogan and Moe Norman:
[quote]“Hogan is still the best ball striker I’ve ever seen, bar none. He could just about make a golf ball talk. Tiger may be as driven, but he can’t compare to Hogan when it comes to pure ball striking.”
Darwin, now 52 and an engineering manager at an area technology firm, vividly remembers one of the first times he went out. Hogan positioned him on a downward-sloping section of the eleventh fairway. “He was hitting four- and five-irons,” Darwin explained. “Ball after ball came in exactly the same way: They took one bounce and then spun back. They were spinning back up the hill. I couldn’t believe it then, and I still can’t hardly believe it.”
Wally Payne, who shagged from 1972 to 1973 and who is now a PGA professional, also remembers his first time working for Hogan, who by then was sixty years old: “He started off as he always would with the nine-iron and worked up to his five-iron; that was the first bag of balls. [Each bag held about four to five dozen balls, and after Hogan hit through them the shag boy would walk the bag back to him.] Then he hit four-iron through driver. With each new club I’d back up a few yards, but it didn’t matter what the distance was, I never had to take more than one or two steps to catch the ball.” [/quote]
wgv.com/hof/53britishopen.html Hogan at Carnoustie…
scigolf.com/scigolf/inside/encounter.htm (Moe Norman)
[quote]He once hit drives for almost seven hours. During this session, he hit 1,540 drives. Of these shots, NONE landed outside a narrow, pre-designated 30 yard zone and not even ONE drive was shorter than 225 yards!
Once, when playing a match with Sam Snead, the twosome teed up on a par-4 which featured a stream. The small stream ran across the fairway almost 250 yds from the tee box. Snead told Moe he needed to lay up since there was no possible way he could clear the stream. Moe told him he wasn’t going to try and clear the water. He simply said, “I’m aiming for the bridge”. Sam hit a lay up just short of the stream while Moe landed his shot a bit longer. Moe
Great post EEzzee!
Quick question on this paragraph:
I’m curious why you feel that better equipment doesn’t help everyone equally? In other words, if a hot driver or ball gives a mediocre player 15 extra yards, why wouldn’t it give Tiger or Vijay 15 extra yards as well?
I guess I can see your point to some extent in that if Joe Schmoe mediocre player goes from 280 yards to 295 yards while Tiger goes from 300 to 315, Joe Schmoe will have gained a little in percentage terms. But the difference is very very small (Joe goes from 93.3% as long as Tiger with both using low-tech equipment to 93.6% as long as Tiger with both using new equipment).
Same with accuracy: If a better ball or club allows a poor player to reduce hooked shots by 10%, why wouldn’t it also allow Tiger to reduce hooked shots by 10%, thus maintaining the advantage of the top players over the mediocre ones (with the neglible % impact I mentioned above).
Now don’t misunderstand me – I’m not making an affirmative argument that you are wrong, and that better technology does not narrow the gap between mediocre and top players. I’m just saying that I’m curious to know why/how you think that high-tech equipment does this?
(Note: The one mechanism that is easy to understand for why the talent gap has narrowed is that information flows much more easily today than it did used to. So training the most effective training methods, techniques etc. --which were once jealously guarded by a relative few-- are now basically available to everyone. So the big picture question of why the average “mediocre” tour player is closer to the #1 player is not really a mystery.)
Golf is a game of traditions and honesty & I have to wonder, as a formerly lowish handicap player (in my student days), whether many of the top players feel a little guilty by using the latest technology. I know Tiger refrained from modernising his driver for as long as possible (stated reason: feel and workability…I suspect he dislikes some of the latest advances in technology because he is a traditionalist, and also he loses some of the advantages his power/skill combination intitially afforded him), and I remember also that my previous favorite player Nick Faldo kept using a Persimmon driver for quite a while. Ultimately, the players have their livelihoods and short careers to consider-so must optimise the clubs and ball they play to keep up with others. However, it seems to me very clear that the governing bodies have been tardy-for whatever reason, presumably too cosy with equipment makers, as well as being complicit in letting technology advance to popularise golf among the massses-to anticpate and react to equipment advances and protect golf.
For me, there are three basic points to consider about professional golf:
The best courses were designed in the past for a certain style of game…many mid/long irons to approach tight pins.
Most of the famous players in the past had to increase their skill level to compensate for smaller sweet spots and shorter flying balls. Consequently, golf had a diversity and interest that outdoes today’s American power style.
tlgolf.com/features/1102_distance.html gives four changes that have occured/accelerated during the last 10 years or so:
-solid core balls with soft covers
notes to the above:
- It’s impossible to substantially lengthen established courses. Many of them will now be further tricked up with longer rough, tighter fairways, shaved and rounded greens and aprons. Luck will feature more. However, many golfers these days are just bashing as far as possible then playing wedge from rough or fairway. This was Singh’s modus operandi last year. Golf courses demanded higher levels of precision and accuracy when the player is playing the approach shot with a long-iron. Here are two examples of the ridiculous state of affairs for the pro’s:
A…Nicklaus has been lobbying against golf ball improvements for 25 years, and what happened to him last month at the Ford Championship at Doral only proved his point. When he won the 1972 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, the defining shot was his 1-iron from 219 yards into a stiff breeze that knocked down the flag at No. 17. Nicklaus had 219 yards into a stiff breeze to the par-5 eighth hole at Doral. At age 63, he hit 2-iron into 15 feet.
B…Nicklaus said that at Augusta’s first hole, a 435-yard uphill par 4, he hit driver, 4-wood, and then driver, 3-wood, in the first two rounds two years earlier. Last year, two years older, on the same hole and with the same driver but using the Callaway Black ball, Nicklaus hit driver, 6-iron, and then driver, 8-iron. “That’s a big difference,” he said.
The main reasons Trevino, Player, Niclkaus, Hogan, Snead etc etc. shone was that they had to specialise their talents. Clubs were standard and basic. Balata balls were short but spun well. Fitness wasn’t emphasised (Player being the major exception). And as you pointed out, information was slow to spread-so the techniques were more idiosyncratic and lacking the best teaching tips it was harder for players to succeed. At present we still have some of the older players who did their own thing and got to the top-but there will be more younger players coming through with the same style/swing/mentality. Personally, I dislike making a pursuit too easy, just to include as many people as possible. I’d rather see people show the necessary hard work and determination to develop the skills/abilities to do well. More creativeness is better, but the clubs/balls these days make it too easy to eliminate challenge.
Now, a look at technology etc:
A. philly.com/mld/philly/sports … tstory.jsp
Balls used to be either balata, or solid core. Pros would use balata, trading the decrease in distance for more spin. Now, they can have both, and much much more…read the links…basically, the balls spin less on drives to fly further, and more on irons to stop quicker.
They make balls that combine distance and feel, with aerodynamics that optimize lift and reduce drag. Some balls are customized for launch conditions of various players.
In a letter to the USGA earlier this year, former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman implored the game’s governing body to take action to reel in the ball.
[quote]“The modern golf ball and the distance it travels is going to make courses obsolete within 15 years,” Beman wrote.
Beman’s letter invoked the legacy of Ben Hogan: “He must be spinning in his grave knowing that we have allowed a golf ball that is so forgiving and goes so straight that size and power have completely eclipsed his total ball striking skills.”[/quote]
In 2004, the average driving distance on the PGA Tour was 287.3 yards, an all-time high. That was up more than 14 yards from only 2000, and up almost 25 yards since 1990.
B. Woods…larger heads on the woods, made of titanium, have titanium faces for better spin, bigger sweet spots, higher inertia and therefore less twisting and off center strikes don’t turn into bad shots.
[quote]Nick Price learned to play when it was an art. Like most players 30 and older, he grew up using wooden drivers with a sweet spot the size of a pea. “Now the sweet spot is the size of a peach,” Price laments.
Swinging for the fences often meant the ball went into the trees. Price figured out he could swing at 85 percent of his total strength before he lost control of his tee shots. Nicklaus was said to have an extra 20 yards when he needed it.
Now, it seems as though every player gives it all they have on every drive.
“As soon as you give a person a lighter, more forgiving club, guys are going to learn to swing harder,” Price said. “Guys are pushing the envelope, and that’s increased their ability to swing by 8 to 10 percent. That’s where they pick up clubhead speed.” [/quote]
C. Fitness-well, this is a plus. It’s good to see them in shape. I’ll add technique/teaching here-there will be more standardisation of ability/swing speed-and short game skill/concentration become more important.
D. Grass is shorter, drives run further.
A good quote:
[quote]He (Nicklaus) proposes a tournament ball that would restore shotmaking and reward talent. He also fears the power game is making championship courses obsolete, and the only way to test elite players is to pinch fairways, grow rough and make the greens as firm as concrete.
Just as Ernie Els uses better equipment than Nicklaus had in his prime, Nicklaus used better equipment than Ben Hogan, who had better equipment than Bobby Jones.
“Every generation says the game changes, and the game has changed,” Nicklaus said. “The only thing that hasn’t had to change is the golf course – until now. How much more can people afford to keep buying land and changing the golf course because of the ego of a ball manufacturer?”
Meantime, anecdotal evidence keeps piling up:
*Els hit a drive that went nearly 400 yards to the bottom of the hill on the 15th hole the Plantation Course at Kapalua. A week later at Waialae Country Club, he reached the 501-yard ninth hole with a driver and a wedge.
*Mickelson nearly drove the green on the 403-yard 10th hole at the Phoenix Open.
*Charles Howell III hit sand wedge for his second shot on the 451-yard 18th at Riviera Country Club, the same hole where a plaque in the fairway pays tribute to Dave Stockton for his 3-wood that helped him win the 1974 Los Angeles Open.
Still, length isn’t everything. Tiger Woods is the world’s best player, and he relies more on his short game and course management than hitting the ball as far as he can.
“I don’t take advantage of technology fully,” Woods said. “I play with a short driver (43 inches) and a steel shaft and a shallow face, so I’ve limited myself to what I can do. But I’d much rather control the ball and get the ball in play.”
Is distance ruining golf?
The fear is that technology will turn even the toughest golf course into a pitch-and-putt. Johnson didn’t order changes to Augusta National because the scores were too low, he simply got tired of seeing players hit wedge into almost all of the par 4s.
To answer your questions: (well, will do that tomorrow-as an edit)[/quote]
Take your time, EEzzee. I’m still reading your links and digesting your post. (Learning a lot, too.)
Well, here’s the rest.
a. Those extra yards are crucial. Distance is vital in golf, playing a shorter iron to the green will increase chances of birdie. Those links give plenty of examples, and there are many more on the net, showing that distance gains from improvements in balls and clubs have enabled players to substantially change the way courses are played. It’s much harder to be close by hitting a 5 Iron into the 16th at Augusta than an 8 Iron. The sweet strikers will have less advantage, there will be less incentive for shorter hitters to increase their other skills to compensate for distance disadvantages, and well designed courses from the past will have to be tricked up or lose some of their challenge. The distance gains are much more that the 15 yards you estimated.
b. Clubs with larger sweet spots and lower inertia, matched with balls that fly straighter and further, allow golfers to go at the ball harder with less fear of a mis hit. Longer drives will result. This may seem like a good thing for amateurs, but the pro’s are hitting too far for the courses that exist. Also, more accurate and forgiving technology doesn’t punish bad shots too much, while allowing players to more confidently attack difficult pin placements.
The point is, more players are now playing the course as Tiger sees it…long off the tee, able to attack many pins-but not through their natural ability as much as because of equipment advances. Tiger has to be at the top of his game to beat them, and will beat them by less since must get even more birdies-while the well designed traditional courses will have to be tricked up more. It’s got to the stage that Tiger only won Augusta because of his amazing short game (well, factor in a still erratic long game). I’d rather a fair contest where the famous courses were harder for everyone.
Finally, the level of skill on tour these days is higher, as is the fitness. These are pluses, but it’s still a silly and difficult game using a long stick to hit a ball into a hole 300 yards away. The latest clubs/balls have substantially lowered the differences in result that differences in skill between the top players previously caused. My call: make a special ball for pro golf, and work with manufacturers to rein in the club technology. It’s time to have a situation of open technology for the amateurs, and restricted technology for pro’s.
A comment about Tiger:
[quote]It remains to be seen whether he gets it sorted out before the next three majors. If he does, he could win the Slam. If he does, there never will be any more second-guessing about his rebuilding his swing after eight major victories. If he does, it could be game, set and match.
And don’t think his fellow players don’t know that.
“He’s so much better than anyone else,” said Tour player Joe Ogilvie. “You guys pump up the Big Four. Well, in order for there to be a Big Four, Tiger has to be swinging poorly. He’s gifted like no one else is gifted. Mentally he’s better than everyone else. Physically he’s better than everybody else. He’s got the best short game, the best iron game. He doesn’t have to swing his best. If he ever starts hitting the fairway, the game’s over.” [/quote]