Tiger Woods’ 73rd PGA Tour win that tied him with Jack Nicklaus for second on the all-time wins list will be less remembered for his tying accomplishment at The Memorial but rather for one particular shot. Tiger won over the weekend with consistent ball-striking and solid putting, but his high lofted soft cut-lob shot (with a 60-degree Nike wedge) on the par 3 sixteenth hole will most likely define his latest victory.
The Golden Bear himself even commented that it might have been the best shot he had ever seen under the particular circumstances; others will argue that Tiger’s shot out of the fairway bunker at the Canadian Open with a 6-iron or even his chip-in on the 16th at Augusta National were better. But no matter what shots are listed – and in what order – does not explain the entire story that led up to – and made possible – for Woods to pull off such a shot at such a critical time in the tournament.
First, from a technical standpoint the shot was not very difficult. If we consider his set-up, the ball is played in the front of the stance, with the clubface open similar to a bunker shot, the hands are aligned behind the ball, which promotes more loft, as well as the cupped left wrist in which he swings with, this also adds loft and promotes a scooping action through the ball.
Some of these technical swing aspects run contrary to most traditional golf shots and teaching. Additionally, most professional tour players hit thousands of golf balls a week, and many focus on the short game. I would like to believe that Tiger has hit that particular shot thousands of times during his career, so from a technical swing aspect I would assume it was pretty easy for him.
The most impressive aspect of the shot was Tiger’s ability to ‘trust’ himself and allow for his body to produce the fantastic result we saw on Sunday afternoon. Perhaps this shot is even more telling, as we may have seen the fist tangible evidence that he is still arguably the most mentally tough golfer in the world. Research has suggested that the number one cause of an errant shot is over tightening of muscles. This occurs when the golfer gets in his or her own way. Some describe it as “staying in the moment” or “in control” of their emotions.
Regardless of how it is defined, the results are unmistakable.
Had Tiger not trusted himself and allowed some type of swing, doubt or fear thought enter his mind during the shot, we would have seen a drastically different result – one that would not have allowed him to swing the club effortlessly to the ten o’clock position and swing down in first gear. Had he gotten into his own by entertaining the doubt or fear that went through his mind, we would most likely would have seen his rhythm change during the swing; perhaps his speed would have been slightly off and the club might have traveled in second gear that would have produced a shot that flew farther into the green; or he might have had a shorter backswing that would have produced a shot that flew too short.
In any event the results would have been unmistakably different from what we witnessed on Sunday.
Mental toughness has its advantages.