Justin Rose and Adam Scott may well be looking up to Tiger Woods with more than the usual amount of envy this week, but they can learn a priceless lesson from the world No 1.
Swings and roundabouts
Justin Rose and Adam Scott may well be looking up to Tiger Woods with more than the usual amount of envy this week, but they can learn a priceless lesson from the world No 1. Rose and Scott have both occupied lofty positions in the game in recent years, being seen as potential challengers to Woods before suffering career slumps from which there seems no easy recovery.
Ranked No 4 in the world in 2006, Scott has slipped to 55th place in the standings while Rose, ranked No 6 in 2007, is also residing in the wrong neighbourhood at No 57. The pair are potential major winners, and Scott's extra length off the tee gives him an edge, as big hitters find it easier to shoot really low scores. I remember him racing to a 10-stroke European Tour win in the Scottish PGA Championship at Gleneagles in 2002 when he played the par fives in 22-under that week.He has a solid technique, but like Rose has struggled to come to terms with the reality that there is no such thing in golf as a perfect swing.
Even when their swing is not at its best, a top player should still be able to find a way to score well. No-one illustrates this point better than Woods. If he had won only when he was swinging well his haul of tournament victories would have been far less impressive. At times during his career, and this was the case during this year's British Open at Turnberry where he missed the cut, Woods' swing has been all at sea.
But when his "A" game is missing he hits big cuts or low draws off the tee, or uses his "stinger", to keep his ball in play. And he will not hesitate to employ similar tactics with a seven iron if that is what is needed on any given day to give him some control over where his ball is going. This is the lesson that Rose and Scott have to learn if they are to turn things around and fully cash in on their great potential.
I caught up with Scott during the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond in July and at that time it looked as if he was getting his act together. So I was expecting to hear how his game as a whole was coming around, but instead he talked only about how his swing was improving. In my mind you could give an average Adam Scott swing to most professional golfers and they would use it to mount a serious challenge to Woods.
For some reason Scott seems to seeking perfection. What he needs to understand is that learning to play the game is an art and from time to time it is easy to forget what you are trying to achieve, which is to have control of the golf ball, play shots, be creative and develop a great short game. How can you do that if the only thing on your mind is your swing? Scott's relationship with tennis star Ana Ivanovic, who has also been going through a bad patch in her career, means he has a lot going on off the course at the moment. I do not know if it is his pride which prevents him from accepting anything less than perfection in his swing, but if he can get over that barrier he has the ability to get out of his slump.
On the positive side, Greg Norman has given him a wild card into the Rest of the World team to play the US in the President's Cup next month. This could be just what he needs, as the matchplay team format places an even bigger emphasis on scoring and may help drum into him that there is more to golf than just technique. Like Scott, Rose has been spending too much time working on his technique to the detriment of his game.
He has a swing which is good enough to win tournaments, but when a player thinks too much about technique he is using the conscious part of his brain to put his swing in motion and that brings restrictions. To get the best out of himself a golfer needs to relax his thought process, concentrate only the shot he wants to hit, and let the subconscious mind take charge. Throughout his career, there has been one aspect of Rose's swing that has worried me, and that is the movement of his hips through impact.
This can be improved by adjusting his address position, although the main change I would like to see in his game is a commitment to accept technical imperfections and rediscover the talent he has to play great golf. This is the key to Woods' success. An eight-shot victory in the BMW Championship last weekend, which took him to the top of the FedEx Cup play-off standings, suggests there is not much wrong with his game at present. In fact, a good deal of his victories have come when he has struggled with his swing, but found a way to get the ball around the course and capitalise on a magnificent short game.
I believe it will eventually dawn on Scott that, rather than looking for something that is unattainable, he already has what it takes to be one of the world's top players again. And I am also tipping Rose to make Europe's Ryder Cup team next year because he is a great golfer, although he may not currently realise how close he is to playing great golf again. Former Tour player Philip Parkin is a golf commentator with the BBC in Europe and Golf Channel in the US.