Three Straight Weeks: Tiger Woods… Need I say anymore?

August 14, 2009

by Perry King…

With one round now finished, is the public convinced that three straight wins for Eldrick Woods is a possibility?

As a golf writer, I deal with one philosophical conflict every time I write an article: do I analyze the game while excluding that juxtaposition with the Tiger?

There is so much the golfing world gives us. Yet as a whole, the only time we see a golf course is if we are golfing or if we watch a major. Even then, discussing this week’s course and the cache of player stories that follow should be taking up my time.

Yet, here I am about to elucidate on the world’s top-ranked golfer. For the first time in a while, in Tiger terms, we have a situation that could make the watching public just wonder what else Tiger could do?

This article begs the following question: what are Tiger’s odds on winning?

“Tiger has won something like 1 out of every 3 events he has entered since turning pro, so his odds of winning each week are 1/3,” said Scott Simmons, Executive Director of the Royal Canadian Golf Association. “So the odds of 3 in row are 1/3 X 1/3 X 1/3 = 1/27.

“But, given he has 2 out of the way and Tiger LIVES for Majors I’d say his odds this week are 1/3 at the worst!”

The golf industry is watching just as sternly as I and Tiger is poised to show us that whatever happened at the Turnberry Ailsa course was a mulligan.

Allow me to summarize what happened since he missed the cut at the Open Championship, where Tiger went 5-over par on a stretch of 6 holes in the second round.

He took a break and has won two straight weeks: at the Buick Open and Bridgestone Invitational. To put that what he has done in context, it would be similar to the New England Patriots winning streak in 2007. That is, before they lost to the New York Giants.

Getting back to reality, Simmons may have something there. By the numbers and sheer reputation, Tiger is a lock to win.

But every lock has a key.Is relying on calculated chance the way to predict the outcome?
Speaking to industry people this week, they were optimistic about Tiger’s chances but keeping an eye on everything about this. “I think the fact that Tiger has the opportunity to win for a third straight week is pretty remarkable, especially considering how poorly he is hitting his driver,” said Scott Pritchard, Associate Director of the Ontario Professional Golfers’ Association.

“Both Firestone and Warwick Hills are older style courses which are more forgiving off the tee which obviously benefited Tiger. Hazeltine is a newer, very long golf course which might pose some challenges for Tiger if he continues to hit wayward drives.”
Pritchard is spot on, but Tiger has been scrambling his way to victory for a decade.
Much of the recipe for Tiger’s success may be staying alert and correcting mistakes quickly. And at last check, Hazeltine is 7674 yards nothing to laugh at.
“That being said, if Tiger can pull it off, it will be great for the game and just another chapter in his illustrious career,” said Pritchard.
What seems more odd about this turn of events is that Tiger never plays three straight weeks.

The last time he did, it was just before he had reconstructive knee surgery close to 16 months ago. If one can look back that far, prior to his surgery, he won the U.S. Open on one leg.

“It would be another impressive feat by Tiger to his already long list of accomplishments,” said Mike Kelly, Director of Sport Development for the Golf Association of Ontario.

“Tiger doesn’t play three in a row too often so his chances of pulling it off are very slim … but then again we are taking about arguably the greatest player of all time.”

As Tiger continues to break golf records at a massive pace, it looks like Tiger may be the greatest. As a regular skeptic as a whole, this is the first time I have admitted to that. As for the primary question: Tiger has a very good chance.

So as I continue to hone my craft as a golf writer, it seems more like the juxtaposition of my writing has to be balanced between bringing context and detail to many stories and using Tiger as a talking point.

And by the way, how can I deny Tiger’s time to shine?

The Course, of course: The Future Horrors of Turnberry

July 16, 2009

by Perry King… Golf courses are altered all the time. In pro golf, the influx of big money and a certain Tiger named Woods are causing golf courses to expand to numbers not seen anywhere at any point in modern.

Think about it. If you crop together the difficult North American courses of the early 1990s and compare them to the likes of Winged Foot and Baltusrol today, I think you could compare it to bringing a knife to a gun fight.

Not even a skill set equal to Nick Faldo in 1992, when he was the number one ranked golfer on the planet, could not handle the harsh terrain of Bethpage Black today, the only public course used in a major. But it looks like Nicky can analyze himself to death.

When pro golf runs their majors, these current courses are modified with even more of a cynical brush. Even Augusta National, the course that Southern gentlemen and pro golfers covet alike, is lengthened more than some versions of plastic surgery.

At last check, up to last year, Augusta was lengthened 28 straight years. Hills, more vegetation and larger greens are still a regular feature of modification projects at the southern club.

Aside from citing conspiracy theories, visions of parity and some biases to beauty, change in golf has done a little good. The stakes in majors alone have increased with the purses, increasing almost tenfold in the last decade.

Golfers have also gotten better.

The emergence of Anthony Kim and Hunter Mahan, combined with the longevity of guys like Miguel Angel Jimenez and even Mike Weir, have shown us that golfers are at least trying to catch up with the learning curve.

It is like forcing a small child to eat spinach. They will reject it for years, go out of their to not eat it, but eventually learn to cope. That may a “Tiger effect” but will be saved for another discussion.

While over-modification is commonplace, there is a place of sanity that exists: the Open Championship. This tournament uses less courses and modifies less than I have dates in the next week.

It feels good to see parity in a form of the exact opposite of what operating bodies like the US Golf Association have been executing on PGA golfers. If Tiger wins this week, I am comfortable in the reality that the field has a better chance.

But let me be very clear: the Turnberry Ailsa course is traditionally a nightmare.

The field has a good chance, but gas bills also have a good chance of increasing next year.
Turnberry is long and tight, with plenty rocks and pot bunkers – those wonderful graves already put in place for any golfer willing to gamble. To add to the madness, this is what course’s website says about one of the course’s easiest holes: “the steep incline of the plateau green on the thirteenth hole … makes one of the largest putting surfaces on the course look rather small.” This course does not hold back.

Links courses do not need makeovers. What they lack in beauty they make up in brawn. The wind will howl, the rain will mist and the slopes will setback more than enough well-hit balls. The course is 7,200 yards of “swing straight.”

Colin Montgomerie loves the course and his chances. Tiger Woods does as well. But we have to be realistic; average scores this week will dip to about 72 or 73 this weekend.

For those who are less than casual golf fans, if you are going to place money on this tournament, do your research and trust whatever confirmed numbers you find. Regardless of the odds, there will be factors in play that set out the outcome.

And despite The notion that staff at Turnberry can manipulate conditions, despite the course’s non-surgery, is one of those factors.

Pro golfers need to stay alert this week, for their greatest lesson is to always have respect for things that have not had major surgery.

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