Good morning. Its’ Masters week. Starting out with some coffee from one of my several Masters mugs!
Augusta National 16th Hole – © Photo by Tony Korologos
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Love the color scheme… click to enlarge
Ah it’s the best time of year, for Masters themed golf gear and apparel.
Its no secret that I’m a big fan of Kentwool. They make fantastic wool socks. I’ve talked about Kentwool quite a bit here on HOG. Check out my Kentwool Tour golf socks review and my Kentwool 19th Hole dress socks review.
I’m sporting my second pair of Masters themed Kentwool socks today.
A sock for the ages.
A sock like no other.
Is it this sock’s time?
Yes (sock) sir!
The major championships in golf are certainly the best time of year. Is it because of the green grass of Augusta and the amazing traditions at the Masters Tournament? Is it because of the intensity and difficulty of the U.S. Open? The wind and weather of the Open Championship?
No. It is the apparel scripts.
I’ve been waiting ALL winter, and running to my email box every day with anticipation of the first Masters apparel scripts. I’m thrilled to be reporting on Rickie Fowler’s apparel script, courtesy of Puma. Surprisingly Fowler is dumping the trademark “traffic cone” look and going for some more subdued schemes. Brilliant. Majestic. Tremendous. Just feast your eyes on this threadtastic apparel art:
Fowler’s Masters apparel script has no socks or underwear
I like how they put a driver in there too. Soooo cool.
But I can’t help noticing something. There are no socks or underwear in Rickie’s script. He’s free-balling it!
It could be a tough walk on those very hilly holes at Augusta National sans socks. And sans underwear? In those humid conditions of Augusta the chafe monster could be in play. I admire Rickie’s tenacity in free-balling the Masters, but I suggest keeping some DZNuts Pro Chamois cream in the bag, just in case.
Has Tiger lost his bite?
I’ve suffered from severe back pain for most of my adult life. In my case a nerve pinches in my lower spine, then it is a week of stabbing pain which brings me to my knees. Hurts so bad I can’t even tie my own shoes. Back pain is no joke and I feel for Tiger Woods, who withdrew yesterday at Torrey Pines due to back pain related to his glutes not “activating.” That WD followed his worst score as a professional golfer last week, an 11-over 82 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Here’s his explanation:
It’s just my glutes are shutting off. Then they don’t activate and then, hence, it goes into my lower back. So, I tried to activate my glutes as best I could, in between, but it just they never stayed activated. ~Tiger Woods
This is a strange comment and has already been the “butt” of many jokes. I find it hard to resist the “glutile dysfunction” jokes myself. My wife is about ready to kill me.
The back problems come after Woods’s supposed successful surgery to fix his back last year. Remember he sat out at the Masters following the surgery?
The last 12 months have been horrid for Tiger:
- Best finish: T25 at the WGC Cadillac, a limited field, no-cut event
- T80 2014 Farmers (Torrey Pines)
- T69 2014 Open Championship
- Three withdrawals
- Three missed cuts
Former world #1 Tiger has dropped to 56th, and he will continue to drop without a doubt. His eligibility for some events now becomes a question. He’s a lifer at Augusta so that’s no worry, but other events like World Golf Championships take the top 50.
I’m quite puzzled by Tiger the last couple of years. In every interview he tells the press and the fans that he feels great. He’s 100%. At the Waste Management Phoenix Open he told the press he was as healthy as he has been in years. Before Torrey he said he was hitting the ball as good as he was back in 2000, at the peak of his career. That period of time was possibly the best ball striking of any golfer, ever…in history… Ben Hogan included.
At the same Time he says he’s hitting it as good as ever, he can’t hit a fairway and his chipping is worse than mine. So what’s the deal? Is he what he calls a “Ranger Rick” now? Ranger Rick is the guy who kills it on the range but can’t bring that game to the course. Or is he trying to use the mind-over-matter theory to convince himself that he’s hitting it good? If that’s the case, the matter is not listening to the mind.
Perhaps his mind is still what it was, but his body doesn’t, or can’t listen anymore. In the early 2000’s he could will the ball into the hole. He could will his young body to do anything. But his body isn’t young anymore. He’s 39 his body isn’t. As USA Today’s Steve DiMeglio said:
“His birth certificate reveals he’s 39, but his body language makes it look like it’s going on 60.”
Another thing I find very puzzling is Tiger’s comments in just about every post-round interview when he’s struggling. Between his finishing hole and his courtesy car he’s already told the press what his issue is and how he’s going to fix it. If he knew it, why didn’t he fix it before? The issues and solutions are always these bizarre and overly-technical and overly-analytical things. Case in point yesterday with the glute activation comment. So is Tiger saying that he’s already got a solution? Just activate the glutes?
I really think it might be a case of analysis paralysis. Once again he’s trying to be in complete control, and use his mind to overcome whatever issues. It also may be a byproduct of having too many cooks in the kitchen from trainers to coaches to massage therapists to nutritionists to witch doctors, all producing a bunch of technical mumbo-jumbo, so they can get paid. Jack Nicklaus didn’t have any of that. He just played golf. I would have much rather heard this in the post round interview:
Press: Tiger what happened out there?
Tiger: My back went out.
End of story.
Oh boy the pundits were buzzing last week with all the expert solutions to Tiger’s chip-yips. They are already spouting their expert analysis and solutions for Tiger and his back. It makes me want to disconnect entirely from golf media. If Tiger would just listen to them he’d be winning majors again! The press are like abused dogs that keep coming back to their abuser.
Then there’s this guy who gets kicked off of Tiger’s withdraw cart, then chases it. If I ever become that guy, kill me.
Did you know that the week after the Masters there’s professional golf? Suffering from Masters hangover like I do every year, I usually don’t track the pro golf tours a week or two following the Masters. But this past week had many interesting storylines, which I have some theories about with regards to the mental aspect of the game. Begin the unscientific study…now.
Masters Heartbreak to Great Performances
There are four specific players I’d like to discuss here. Those four are players who all competed in the Masters last week, but left without a victory or without even making the cut.
Lee Westwood had a solid Masters, finishing in solo 7th place, seven shots behind winner Bubba Watson. Westwood has left Augusta with no Masters or Major win on a yearly basis.
This past week Westwood smoked the field at the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur. I believe the term coined on the European Tour website was “Westwood Romps to Victory.“ What constitutes a romp or smoking the field? A seven shot margin of victory.
Matt Kuchar was tied for the lead on the 4th tee at the Masters during the final round. After four-putting that same hole, his hopes for the 2014 Masters win were crushed. Kuch finished T5.
This past week at Harbour Town Kuch was fantastic, holing out his bunker shot on the final hole for birdie to steal the win from Luke Donald. Final round: 64.
Speaking of Luke Donald, this former #1 player in the world is third of our four players. Luke missed the cut at the 2014 Masters. The following week he found himself leading at Harbour Town and nearly winning on Sunday, if not for an amazing finish by Kuchar.
Miguel Angel Jimenez
Miguel Angel Jimenez
Finally we have golf’s most interesting man in the world, the fabulous Miguel Angel Jimenez. Jimenez. Miguel had the lead in the 2014 Masters at one point. Very cool to see him atop the leaderboard at the Masters. He was close all week, finishing in solo 4th place just four strokes behind winner Bubba Watson.
This past week, the now 50-year-old made his first start on the Champions Tour at the Greater Gwinnett Championship in Duluth, Georgia. Jimenez took the lead immediately and led the tournament wire-to-wire, holding off the nearest competitor Bernhard Langer by two shots.
What Does This Mean?
As this unscientific piece continues, I think about the mental aspects of the game and playing under pressure. I can relate in my own small way. There are so many times where I felt like I was not able to handle the pressure (self imposed usually) of a tournament, event, or round. Once I figured I’d shot myself out of contention, the pressure was off and suddenly I played far better. No pressure, better scores.
The same, in my not-so-professional opinion, applies here. The four players above found the week after the Masters to be free of the pressure of a major championship. They found it much easier to be relaxed and perform well.
Sure you can make a “horses for courses” argument, especially with Donald and Kuchar at Harbour Town. Those two are two of the most accurate players in the world, and the course is best suited for that type of player, but still. These players were able to pull off wins or near-wins in my opinion largely in part because they did not have the high pressure of a major championship to deal with.
Now you could say that for these four players there are dozens who did not shine this past week and it would be a valid argument. But three of these four players had a shot at winning the Masters, Donald the exception, then followed up with wins the following week.