Tiger Woods has won majors with different swings and different strategies, but he hasn’t done it with a different golf philosophy, and that’s what he’s tasked with this week at the Masters.
Golf fans remember Woods in his prime as having superpowers on the golf course. Although it often looked like magic, Woods has constantly said throughout his career that the biggest difference between him and the competition wasn’t talent, but work ethic. He has often told the story of being a skinny kid who wasn’t as strong as the other guys but always knew that he was outworking them.
For years, even as his body grew and his talent exploded, his real edge was knowing that he was willing to, and indeed was, working harder than anyone. His father Earl, a U.S. army special forces man who did two combat tours in Vietnam, made sure of it. Graeme McDowell once said that the golf course during practice days before a major is now empty by late afternoon because an entire generation of golfers grew up thinking they had to get out there when the sun came up, just like Tiger.
But, at 43 years old and after all his body has been through, Tiger’s days of outworking everybody are over.
“The hardest part is I just can’t practice like I used to,” Woods said on Wednesday at Augusta National. “That’s the challenge that I now face going forward and I just have to figure it out and try to create a good balance there to find a prep of what I need to work on. It was a little bit easier when I could work on everything, but that’s no longer the case.”
For Woods now, practice comes in bits and pieces. It’s usually a focus on putting or chipping or full swing, instead of putting, chipping and full swing. The biggest question mark with Woods game during this comeback has been his putter and it’s no coincidence that putting is the part of the game that benefits most from dogged, repetitive practice.
All these years we thought Tiger’s edge was executing the impossible on the golf course. His ability to seemingly will the ball to turn over just one … more … time, and fall into the hole, like at the 16th at Augusta National in 2005.
Do you know what else he did in 2005? He made 539 of 539 putts from three feet or closer.
Without the ability to practice like he used to, Woods will be lucky to ever to have a week where he is 90% of the physical golfer he once was. But Tiger at 90% could easily be slipping on a fifth green jacket – he shot a practice round 65 at Augusta National last Wednesday – but he will have to do it knowing that others are working harder than he is.
And that will be new.
The Champions dinner was set for Tuesday night and Patrick Reed wasn’t messing around. Last month he joked that he planned to “fatten those boys up a little” and he apparently meant it.
The 2018 Masters champion’s menu featured a bone-in cowboy ribeye, with caesar salad, mac ‘n’ cheese, creamed spinach, corn creme brulee and steamed broccoli. For dessert it was Tiramasu, vanilla creme brulee and chocolate crunch and praline cheesecake. Of course, all served with a Napa Cab or Chardonnay.
A slimmed down Reed was asked about his new look and confirmed that he has dropped 10-12 pounds.
“The reason why I lost a little is because tonight,” said Reed at a press conference on Tuesday. “I knew what kind of menu I was putting out there so I need to leave a little room to be able to fit back into (the green jacket).”
WATCH OUT FOR KOEPKA
Brooks Koepka has won three major championships since last playing in the Masters. The reigning U.S. Open and PGA Championship winner missed the season’s first major last year with a wrist injury and is looking forward to his first appearance at Augusta National as a major winner.
“It’s fun, I love it,” Koepka said Tuesday about the opening tee shot at the Masters. “I love getting on that first tee and lettin’ it fly. It’s more excitement now, it’s not as much nerves.”
Fun and love aren’t words usually used by players to explain the first tee on Thursday at Augusta.
As always, Koepka seems to be flying under the radar, which works well for the 28-year-old who seems to fuel himself on any and every perceived slight. He explained on Tuesday that he recently had some blood tests done after falling ill earlier in the year. Everything turned out fine and he said a dramatic diet change was to blame.
In an effort to lose weight and lean down, Koepka was eating just 1,800 calories per day, or as Masters champ Reed would call it, a side dish.
ROCKIN’ THE 90s
Woods will be hoping to bring ’90s Tiger back to the Masters this week and is pulling out all the stops. The four-time green jacket winner will be sporting a new version of his old-school mock turtleneck golf shirts this week.
“I thought it was a pretty neat look back in the day,” Woods said. “I was probably in a little better shape back in those days, but I had won events wearing the mock, and I’ve always enjoyed wearing them. You’ll see it on Thursday.”
Justin Thomas was asked about his pal Tiger’s decision to bring back the look.
“His fashion off the golf course is very well known, I would say, as not being the best, but he’s always kept it very tame on the course,” Thomas said.
The 25-year-old world no. 5 also added, “To be honest I couldn’t care less what he’s wearing or doing.”
Yep, it’s Masters week.