As Tiger Woods limped home Sunday (figuratively, this year) looking thoroughly befuddled and not at all the "Sunday Tiger," we've come to expect, a few disjointed thoughts were swimming about my own befuddled consciousness.
In no particular order of significance, I mulled over the following, which I don't present as any insightful recapitulation of the final round of this year's PGA Championship, or nuanced breakdown of Tiger's failure to secure victory after leading in the final round of a major (for only the second time in his career). Rather, I pen (alright, type) the following as a presentation of a few talking points loosely associated with my impressions of a few days ago.
Putting… What Gives?
On the one hand, Tiger seems to have struggled as of late on slower greens. He seems to have real difficulty in adjusting the speed of his putts to acommadate slower surfaces, thus leaving putts woefully short, as well as high. I don't think this was necessarily the main source of his ails on Sunday, as the greens weren't incredibly slow, but they weren't lightning fast, either.
In the past few years, Woods has been taking the "high to middle" road with his putts, rather than reading less break and hitting the ball harder, as he did earlier in his career. Certainly his putting is better overall, as is his ball striking, but he does seem to suffer from a gross inability to make enough putts to win major championships, at least over the past three years. He hasn't won the Masters since 2005 and it seems that the sole impetus to him doing so is his putting.
It always amuses me when Tiger is asked about what was going right in 2000-2001 when he won four straight majors. "I was making a lot of putts," is his usual response. To some extent, this is a throw away, "next question please" response, but really, as much as anything, that is the rationale for his success.
Woods also seems to have mechanical difficulties with his putting setup from time to time, becoming too crouched or gripping the putter in such a way that he ends up pushing or pulling a lot of putts. These problems seem to flare up at the most inopportune times. I think, much as he does with his longer clubs, Tiger makes every effort to keep his hand action as quiet as possible (thus, not saving the shot/deliberately squaring the face) as to create a more repeatable stroke with the larger (easier to control) muscles… all this by way of saying, for Woods, much depends on posture and set-up.
Here Come the Korean Men…
OK. I don't know if there going to be any sort of influx of Korean male talent on the PGA Tour or that Yang's victory is the clarion call for men in the same way the Se Ri Pak's win at the 1998 LPGA was for Korean women, but it does point out, once again, what an international game golf is. Indeed, two of the four major winners this year were from outside of the United States.
I don't mean to be etho-centric, or culturally insensitive, but not knowing much about golf in Asia, I can't speculate further as to the exact impact of Mr. Yang's triumph, other than to say I think Y.E.'s victory could prove to be a tremendous catalytic event, certainly one with positive ramifications of the game of golf across the world, however large or small.
Also indicated is that absolutely no one will be watching the Grand Slam of Golf this year. I don't think the charismatic quartet of Cabrera, Glover, Cink, and Yang is really going to be a tremendous draw. Perhaps Anna Rawson should be brought in to consult on the project?
Yang: Exciting Golfer (at Least on Sunday)
In all honesty, I expected Y.E. to shoot somewhere between 73 and 76 on Sunday, but he really put together a superb round of golf, always remaining focused on the shot at hand. Clinical, may be the right word; certainly, he looked clinical with the white shirt/pants combo he donned for the event.
Yang's round would have been simply a methodical plodding around the golf course (which is entirely unparalleled, coming from a playing partner of Mr. Woods on a Sunday) were it not for his chip in eagle and his career hybrid over the trees to, essentially, secure victory. Solid play with a bit of spice is the best recipe for an entertaining major victory. (Solid play, alone, is rather bland to taste).
All this by way of saying, I found the man difficult to root against and was quite entertained by the final round battle. It was impossible for me to believe, at least entering the round, that Tiger would do anything other than win. However, it was clear very early on that Yang wasn't going to back down.
This, really, was the drama of the final round, for me.