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Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Tiger, a Shark and Jim Furyk

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        We aren’t used to watching golf until the wee hours of the morning, but the early a.m. crankiness from our abbreviated sleep was a small price to pay for all the story lines that came out of The Presidents Cup (my wife would disagree about the value of the crankiness part). Here are a few of my takeaways, for what they are worth:

Tiger Woods’ Love/Hate Relationship with November

        If the event did not end early this morning after all east coast newspapers were put to bed, the headlines would be buzzing with words like “Heeeee’s Back!”  Tiger Woods had his best November in two years, by far, since his errant Thanksgiving drive into a tree.  At The Presidents Cup this week, he corrected
Now that he has shed his wildness -- at least on the golf course -- and his wild caddy, Tiger Woods might just reemerge as the best golfer on the planet next season.

a recent spate of wildness and kept the ball in play on an excruciatingly difficult golf course, and missed virtually nothing on the slick greens in his singles match, and putted much better in the early rounds than his scorecard indicated.  The putting stroke looked smooth, for the most part, and many of the putts he missed from outside 10 feet burned the edges.  But the climb back physically and, especially mentally, in competitive golf is a long one, and knowing observers of the game will hold their opinions until January, when the tour cranks up again and we find out if the quiet time of December has made the former star more or less comfortable, mentally.

        Woods certainly would have been better served if last week’s Australian Open, where he finished a strong third, and this week’s Presidents Cup had been held at the beginning or even in the middle of the PGA Tour season; it would give him something to build on for the intense competition ahead rather than for the non-competitive practice sessions of the coming weeks.  But never underestimate the potential of a hard worker with supreme natural gifts, or the positive joss of a straight-shooter new caddy to replace the irascible enabler Steve Williams, Woods’ prior one.  The betting here is that, come next season, Tiger Woods will play well, probably win a major and compete for tour-leading status.  His play will never again reach its previously legendary heights; but then no one else’s will reach those heights either. 

Jim Furyk, a better comeback story

        Jim Furyk is the poster child for the mind game of golf, as in mental is more important than physical.  He will never have Tiger Woods’ golf swing or physical attributes, but he is the embodiment of mind over matter -– his swing doesn’t matter and he doesn’t mind if people pick on it.  He was in a horrible funk this past season, his reliable short game having departed for places unknown. But he traveled halfway around the world to find it at Royal Melbourne, where he seemed to make every putt inside 20 feet and led his team with an unblemished record of 5-0.  Gracious as always, he gave full credit to Phil Mickelson for building his confidence prior to the Presidents Cup and during the rounds in which they were paired together.

        Flamboyant swingers like Woods get the headlines, but golf is a game of steady; Furyk’s eight-piece swing and Keystone Cops pre-putting routine aside, his game is worthy of fawning over too.


Amazing Grace, but Shark Bites Himself 

        Greg Norman’s captaincy of the International team was a study in contrasts –- just like his playing career in which he was assailed fairly for making poor choices, occasionally even reckless ones, at critical times in major tournaments.  His 78 on Sunday at the 1996 Masters, which handed the tournament to Nick Faldo, ranks as one of the biggest collapses ever in golf.

        Norman’s on-course decisions came from a strong belief in his own abilities; but over-confidence, especially on tough golf courses, can tilt

Picking Allenby was bad enough, but when he criticized the pick of Woods, Norman set himself up.

toward dangerous territory.  One reason that great golf courses are considered great is because no matter how well you think you know them, you are their subject, not their master.  Norman clearly has not figured this out.  He chose the massively struggling Robert Allenby as his captain’s pick because Allenby knew Royal Melbourne well, having played their scores of times.  But the greens at Royal Melbourne are not for the weak and intimidated, and Allenby’s inability to putt any better than, say, you, dear reader, apparently did not occur to Norman as a sign of impending doom.

        Dumb is one thing, but reckless is another, and Norman’s criticism of U.S. Captain Fred Couples’ choice of Tiger Woods as his wild card pick set up the Shark for biting criticism.  Allenby went 0 for 5 in his matches, and tanked so badly in the crucial singles match on Sunday that most observers considered the match against Hunter Mahan over well before the turn.   Woods smoked the previously well playing Aaron Baddeley in the next-to-last match, although he finished with an overall record of just 2-3 (his playing partners did not cover themselves with glory).  If Allenby contributes just two points, the Internationals might have won the Cup, something I suspect the Aussie press will not let Norman forget for a while.

        We will say this: Norman was extremely gracious –- and graceful -- in his on-air interviews during the matches, answering all questions forthrightly and heaping compliments on players on both sides.  But at the end of the event, when faced with a question about his criticism of Woods as the U.S. captain’s pick, Norman went way off target, like a Sunday at Augusta National.

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Larry Gavrich

This blog was conceived and is published by me, Larry Gavrich, a former corporate communications executive who founded HomeOnTheCourse, LLC, in 2005.  Our firm advises baby boomers and others seeking a lifestyle in which golf is a major component.  My wife Connie and I own a home in Connecticut (not on a golf course) and a condo at Pawleys Plantation in Pawleys Island, SC, on a Jack Nicklaus layout.  We began our search for our home on the course more than 15 years ago, and the challenges of the search inspired me to research golf communities and write objective reviews of them.