10 May 2022

Pete Cowen: Why you should never write off Tiger

I remember when Tiger pulled out of the 2017 Dubai Desert Classic and many critics and even some fans thought that was the end of his career. I said in my Worldwide Golf column back then that Tiger would be back, as competitive golf is in his blood and that fire was still burning bright.

It was great to remind those critics of their wrongful forecast when Tiger did the unthinkable and won his 15th Major at the Masters in 2019. When a phoenix keeps on rising from the ashes it certainly silences any doubters and this year Tiger was remarkable. Considering what he has gone through since that car crash last February I was blown away to see him at Augusta never mind making the cut. Those slopes certainly took it out of him and come Sunday he was just playing on empty and managed to keep going through sheer will. What a remarkable individual and when I get asked if I think he will win another Major my answer remains yes!

Tiger will win again

Why you might ask? It’s simple, it’s Tiger and don’t be surprised to see him lift the Claret Jug at St. Andrews. It’s flat and not that long, so managing his leg will be far easier than round Augusta.  Equally as important is his knowledge of the course and he has won The Open there before, although it’s hard to believe that was 22 years ago!

Tiger’s one of a few 40 plus year-olds that still could take it to the youngsters that are dominating the world ranking. But you would struggle to look past Scottie Scheffler at the moment. He’s a great guy and his coach, Randy Smith (pictured), is a friend of mine, which makes their success story even more enjoyable to watch. I remember a few years back before Scottie turned professional Randy said he was special. His swing was unique but the standout ingredient that Scottie had was competitive spirit and you can’t teach that. Paired with his remarkable chipping and fearless putting makes him a huge threat at any Major this year when the pressure is on.

Generation Game

These young players are just exciting to watch, especially when they have no distractions but then there is always a spell when life gets in the way and golf can’t be everything. Apart from family commitments, as you get older those missed putts and troublesome swing gremlins start to play on your mind more. Jordan Spieth is a prime example of a player who’s fighting his eye off the tee –his gremlin is the swing goes under and away from him. That is why you see his practice move dress rehearsing completely the opposite movement, but it is very difficult for a player to get away from a default.

If your eye is saying I can’t do this and you are saying to yourself you can, that is a very difficult thing to overcome. You should always let your eye lead the way. Jordan’s win at Harbour Town the week after he missed the cut at the Masters was not a huge surprise. His eye could lead the way and navigate the course with a three wood off most tees. Jordan’s wedge play is one of the best and you need to see him live on the course to appreciate the shots he pulls off. His putting might not be at the same level as it was back in 2015 but he chips in more than anyone else I know. That isn’t luck, that is a remarkable short game. That is why he’s one to keep a close eye on round St Andrews in July.

Trust your eye

The one thing age gives you is experience and many top players build a schedule based on courses that suit their eye.

For example, it is believed that you need to draw the ball round Augusta yet Scottie Scheffler hits a fade, but his eye could see the slopes and contours to put the ball in the right positions. He let his eye lead the way.

Finally, it is great to see Shane Lowry back in form and topping leaderboards. He’s been working on his putting with Stephen Sweeney who used to work in Dubai and what they’ve found seems to be working. Any coach starting out needs a development programme to make it on Tour. The moment one of your players breaks out and wins something the interest spreads like wildfire, as you become flavour of that given time. It can last months, years or even a decade. But for any coach in any sport, popularity is always based on results.

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