With the Masters starting tomorrow, I am pleased to share a Guest Blog on Tiger Woods.
This Blog-Post is written by my friend and client Bil Cannie. Bil and I have been working together for nearly 20 years and the following blog is a great encapsulation of what we love to discuss and debate.
When you read this, you have the luxury of the year being 2015! Much has gone under the bridge with Tiger, since Bil wrote this post in August 2009!! Please enjoy…
Tiger Woods is a pretty special individual, and one of the greatest sportsmen to ever grace the world. But the idea that I wish to share with you is that whilst his records are incredible and he is a delight to watch, he is not all that he could be. How, one might ask, could I make such an assertion? He is the number one player in the world – unquestionably. He is perhaps the greatest of all time, although it is difficult to compare sportsmen from different eras. What we can say for certain is that like Jack Nicklaus and others before him, he has dominated his peers in a resounding way. He has 70 wins on the US Tour, including 5 this year and he has won 14 major titles, second only to the great Nicklaus. Tiger is special, no doubt about that. There are few players in any sport that I enjoy watching more than him, but what I am pointing to are some of the more subtle aspects and some of the unseen elements, that I believe if we look at closely, suggest that for all this man’s brilliance and potential feats to come, that there could have been more and there could be more still, but only if Tiger is able to realise what it is that needs to unfold and evolve.
It should be noted that the thoughts and ideas I am sharing here are just that – my thoughts and ideas. I am making no judgment about Tiger and what he should do. My intention is merely to share some insights I have stumbled upon on my own exploration and open self-enquiry. I don’t know Tiger; I don’t know what he does every day, and the myriad of pressures he must face. Of course, Tiger should and will live the way he chooses to. My thoughts have arisen from a process beginning with a conceptual understanding of the game and all its subtle nuances, through to my own experiential understanding and the place I now find myself, which is an open enquiry.
I share these thoughts as Tiger’s number one fan, in the hope that he begins to realise that there is another path, another way to move both along and deeper into the journey.
When I look at Tiger there are some fundamental things, in my opinion, that need addressing. The starting point, I suppose are some technical or conceptual insights. When looking at Tiger’s swing in the 90’s, and even early 00’s we can see a swing that is elegant, fluid, powerful and balanced. Tiger has publicly stated that he is always trying to evolve and improve, and for that he should be praised, but without the right information and the right understanding, seeming progress can indeed be regress. I am not a golf coach, so will not delve too technically into the changes he has made, but to my eye, the rhythm and beauty of what was, has been superseded by something less connected, indeed more harsh and forced. In truth, when watching Tiger and seeing him address the ball (with his driver in particular), I have wavering confidence in where it is going to go. Is it going to be a big block to the right where his hands get stuck beyond his body? Is he looking to start the ball left with a fade, only to see it start left and turn further left? The most alarming aspect of his swing these days is the amount that his head dips from the top of the backswing to the impact position. This move is particularly pronounced, and makes it very difficult for any person attempting to hit the ball, to do so in a consistent manner. It is this part of his swing, I believe, that prevents him from having the requisite control that he once had and now needs more than ever. It should be noted that in saying all of this, Tiger is a phenomenon. Even with these flaws (which we all have our share of) and when he doesn’t play his best, he still often wins, or is there abouts. His short game also is something to marvel at. It is often his putting and pitching that turn bad scores into great ones.
It is not my intention to focus solely on technicalities, because the truth of the matter is, golf is a game that has been made far too technical. Human beings are not robots, and a mechanistic approach to anything in life seems limited and lacking to me. Tiger needs to look at the way he used to move, the way he naturally can move, if he ever wants to scale the heights he once did and reach his true potential. I would contend that whilst the last 10 years has been incredibly successful for Tiger, and I thank him for the privilege he has given all of us to watch it and dream with him, his success has come in spite of the changes he has made and in spite of the path he has gone down.
One of the other notable differences in the Tiger of today, as compared with years ago is the nature of the ways he plays. Simply put, the imagination and creativity that he once had seem lacking. These aspects that are intrinsic to him are the very things that changed the way golf was played and what was thought of as possible. Tiger use to hit high draws and low fades and his famous ‘stinger’ 3-woods and low irons. He now seems to approach most shots, unless faced with a material obstacle, with the intention of making a certain swing, not hitting a certain shot. I believe that Tiger needs to reconnect with these aspects of himself that saw him transform the way the game was played. We’ve seen him do the makeover before, it needs to happen again and in a way that includes everything he is today, all the experiences of the past, yet transcends them into a higher sphere – a higher realm.
Tiger ‘revolutionised’ a golfer’s approach to the game. His interest and focus on ‘fitness’ had never been seen in a sport that had always been thought of as more of a game, a bit like fishing or cards, with little need for aerobic capacity, endurance or strength. The change that he brought has been wonderful for the sport, but the fact remains that the way most people think about ‘fitness’ and ‘wellness’, including Tiger, is limited. Bench presses do not help your golf swing, and perhaps some weights can help, but only a little. In my opinion, the approach needs to be holistic. Tiger needs to develop, perhaps with the help of someone who has spent their life understanding it, the nature of movement patterns and the kind of exercises and postures that will allow him to thrive and flourish in the way he can. He has had surgery on his left knee 3 times in the last 8 years – clearly he is not doing the right things. Most people seem to be interested in focussing on those things that can be measured. ‘I can lift this’, ‘I can run in this time’ etc, but the true path to wellbeing doesn’t involve these measures and constructs.
Ultimately, the ideas I am trying to share cannot be proven by statistics or outcomes. Showing me that he has won five times this year doesn’t defy my point, nor does highlighting the fact that he missed the cut at the British Open and failed to close the deal at Hazeltine enhance my point. The fact is I can see that he doesn’t look as fluid, mobile, balanced, aligned or connected as he once did. Tiger Woods may very well (and boy I hope he does) go on to break Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors and he may very well play golf at the highest level for the next 20 years, but my interest here is in looking at those things which are not seen, those things that we will never know because they haven’t been allowed to unfold. Perhaps he’ll win 20 majors, and he could have won 30? Or perhaps he’ll win a major when he’s 48 but could have been winning majors in to his 60’s? That’s right. Golfers don’t actually need to degenerate so drastically as they age. Tom Watson recently provided us with a glimpse at what can be, by almost winning the British Open at age 59, but we need not come to accept that our knees will give way or that our back will hurt or that we will need a hip replacement. Life actually doesn’t need to be like that.
I suppose outlined above are some of the more practical things that need to happen in relation to golf specific technique and ways of moving and living that may be more conducive to one’s development. The final aspect I wish to share in this note is the idea of enquiry or curiosity. This open enquiry is the ultimate in experiencing life as it is, for it transcends, but includes all the conceptual and experiential understanding and allows us to optimise our experience as living, learning organisms.
It is my hope that Tiger is able to see that a holistic and embracing approach is what is needed in order to allow him to thrive and sustain his functioning as a golfer and a human being. I mean this in every sense.
There is no doubt that he is making a wonderful contribution to the world and we are all blessed to have someone like him doing the things he does, not just for golf but for less privileged and aspiring people the world over. The thing is, Tiger Woods’ don’t come around all that often in life, and it is my hope that some of this message can permeate in some way so that we all have the chance to enjoy his grace for a whole lifetime instead of just a career and so that we can see the beauty of a life lived to its true potential.