Tiger has no answers after Masters
At Bay Hill, while Tiger Woods was impressively winning his first full-field event in 30 months, his professorial swing coach, Sean Foley, was in the clubhouse, explaining how it all came about.
Foley, a likable, intense Canadian with the mind of a geometrist, is a natural teacher, and becomes so engrossed in explanation that words are often not enough.
He instinctively reaches for props, pulling over a notebook, borrowing a pencil and drawing all kinds of diagrams to explain what he has Woods doing and how it’s so very different from the swing Hank Haney had taught him.
But Foley doesn’t stop at swing mechanics, which he says are only part of the answer. He drifts on to subjects like myelin and, finally, to the learning model matrix.
“This is what it’s all about,” he says.
The model starts with Unconscious Incompetence, which means you don’t know you need to know something.
It then moves to Conscious Incompetence (you can’t do it but at least you know you should learn) to Conscious Competence (you know how to do it but you have to think about it) and ultimately to Unconscious Competence.
“That’s when you can be out there and talk about whatever you want and just step up to the ball and hit the shot without thinking, just second nature,” Foley said.
After Woods’ bitterly disappointing Masters campaign, it’s obvious that he hasn’t made it to the top of that scale.
By Sunday, when he knew his goose had been cooked -- though it was probably done when he sniped two hooks on his first two holes on Thursday, shattering his confidence -- the anger in Woods that drove him to throw and kick clubs had subsided.
He was resigned to the fact that he’d record his worst finish at Augusta National as a professional. The four-time champion tied for 40th, and for the first time didn’t record a single round under par.
Woods exited so fast on Sunday he didn’t even bother to stop in the locker room, changing his shoes as his car waited to take him to his plane.
He might’ve even been home in Jupiter by the time Bubba Watson -- who clipped him by 15 shots -- won the playoff.
To listen to Woods tell it, it was just a bad week that came at a bad time.
“You're not going to play well every week,” he said.
“Unfortunately it was this week for me. I had the wrong ball-striking week at the wrong time.”
He hit 32 of 56 fairways, second-worst in the field, and played the par-5s “atrociously,” he said, making just two birdies against a bogey.
“I would like to say it was poor driving, but then I drive in the fairways and then miss into a bad spot or I would miss the drive and then compound the problem from there or hit two really nice shots up there or three good shots up there in a position where I could make birdie and then I would miss,” he said.
“It was just one thing after another.”
He worked on the range until nightfall Thursday and Friday, trying to find the secret in the dirt.
“Just trying to get back to how I had it at Bay Hill and prior to Bay Hill,” he said.
But no matter how well he’d stripe shots on the range, between the gallery ropes was another matter.
“I got here and for some reason I kind of fell into my same old patterns again. I just can't do that,” he said.
“What's frustrating is I know what to do, and I just don't do it.
“I get out there and I just don't trust it at all.”
It’s probably easier on the psyche to think the solution is just “more reps”; as in practicing to further ingrain Foley’s swing.
But surely there was a psychological element to his demise.
Maybe he got stage fright?
Can repetition help him if that’s the case?
Though he conceded that “when you get in tough situations, you revert back to your old swing,” Woods isn’t going very far down those dark roads.
Instead, he’ll practice for a few weeks and prepare for his next event, likely to be at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow, followed by the Players at TPC Sawgrass next month.
“You're never past it,” he said when asked if his learning of Foley’s swing was complete.
As always with Woods, there will be divergent views on what this Masters failure means. Some will say it was just a blip on the comeback trail, others will see it as proof that he won’t be back.
Whatever, this much is true: Jack Nicklaus once predicted Woods would win more green jackets than his six and Arnold Palmer’s four combined. But he has now won only one Masters in the past 10 years.