x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Woods needs to dig deep to find form

The world is witnessing its third Tiger Woods "slump" and just like the first two, it would be better for all concerned if he gets this one over with soon.

Tiger Woods plays from the bunker during the pro-am event at Emirates Golf Club in Dubai yesterday.
Tiger Woods plays from the bunker during the pro-am event at Emirates Golf Club in Dubai yesterday.

One of the greatest golfers is in another 'slump', here's hoping he gets back to his best sooner rather than later

From the manicured dungeons of the third-ever Tiger Woods "slump", just one little wail here: please, please let this one end soon. It turns out just as excruciating as the first two.

"People forget," Woods said of a past "slump" yesterday at a press conference, except that I wish one more person would forget, and that the person would be myself.

I remember, enough to know dreary topics when I re-hear them.

Like the alleged Woods "slump" between mid-1997 and early 1999 (alongside zero wins in 10 majors), and like the alleged Woods "slump" between late 2003 and early 2005 (alongside zero wins in 10 majors), the Woods "slump" from late 2009 to present (alongside zero wins in 10 majors) makes for barely endurable banter.

The old themes have grown almost as exhausted as I've Got A Feeling, and that is serious exhaustion.

Reporters must ask the questions to be responsible, Woods must answer them to be accommodating, all the subject matter seems logical and yet none of it broaches why those of us who have appreciated Woods have appreciated Woods.

We dug him for his capacity to come through at a vicious game, and maybe we became so addicted that these lulls seem uniquely time wasting. We can waste our time other ways, but can we get some more crescendos out here?

For titbits of freshness, No 3-ranked Woods will play alongside No 1 Lee Westwood and No 2 Martin Kaymer, the first top-three unanimity at a European Tour event since 1994. And Woods played the pro-am with lucky-draw winner US Army Lt Col Michael Rowells, which gave Woods a chance to extol service members and recollect another lieutenant colonel, Woods's late father.

Otherwise, we're stuck with exhausted swing-change talk, I-can-feel-it-coming-around talk and "slump" talk. That does not even include the this-is-bad-for-golf-television-ratings talk that generally accompanies a Woods "slump," which mercifully did not come up yesterday at Emirates Golf Club.

Little can match swing-change talk for lavish tedium. In the dreary late 1990s when Woods won "only" once in 1998, we heard swing-change talk over Woods and swing guru Butch Harmon. In the dreary mid-2000s when Woods won "only" once in 2004, the swing-change talk shifted to Woods and swing maestro Hank Haney.

Now in the dreary early 2010s when Woods has not won since September 13, 2009, the swing-change talk involves Woods and swing coach Sean Foley.

"Well, obviously my swing, that made a complete change in philosophy and movements," Woods said yesterday, adding, "Some of the positions, I've been here before. That's one of the reasons why I've made the changes a little bit faster, because I've actually been here before, some at impact position, some at key positions in the golf swing I used to do."

And: "I've made a complete overhaul on my swing, so that's taken quite a lot of time."

Talk of "impact position" and "things that came up swing-wise" last month in that 44th-place finish in San Diego and "new fixes" that might work and "old fixes" that do not, well, it could make many doze off, die of natural causes or wish to die of natural causes.

As well, while we know that almost every struggling golfer says he can feel it coming around, and that every golfer probably should say that given the beast of a game they are up against, and that every golfer should say it even if it is not true ... hearing Woods say it brings a bigger thud in the ears.

"It's progressing," he said. "I'm putting pieces together and working on the same things. Sean and I are sticking with the game plan and just trying to get better every week.

"Good things happened at the last event I played in, and it's nice to have some things that showed up that I had not had in practise. So we were able to identify that, work on it, and I feel a lot more comfortable coming this week."

It's numbing, hearing mustered optimism from the man who mastered the hard art toward 14 major wins. In fact, in Woods "slumps," it's hard to glean anything.

After all, his supposedly wretched 1998 included 13 top-10 finishes, five top-threes and one win, and the allegedly horrid 2004 featured a win, eight top-fives and 14 top-10s - hard, hard numbers to attain.

And in lousy old 2010 with its winlessness, who had the best aggregate finish across all four majors?

That would be Woods, who finished an impressive fourth, fourth, 23rd and 28th, but who set such a standard beforehand that you have to debate whether a "slump" is a slump, which is one tedious way to spend an afternoon.



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