Tiger returns to Phoenix for 2015 debut
By Peter Santo
This is a big week for the city of Phoenix, Arizona. Not only is the Super Bowl in town, but the annual PGA Tour stop at TPC Scottsdale also takes place this week. This is typically one of the biggest weeks in the world of golf, as the event plays host to some of the biggest crowds in golf. As if even more mayhem was needed, this event has even more intrigue this year because of the presence of one man: Tiger Woods.
Woods is making his first appearance in the event since 2001, citing safety concerns and scheduling for his long absence. The WM Phoenix Open has had a few notable moments for Tiger over the years, including his ace at the famous 16th in 1997 and the gallery moving the largest loose impediment in golf history in 2001.
However this is a much different Woods then the guy who last played in Phoenix 14 years ago. In 2001 Woods was fresh off one of the best years by any player in history and had cemented his status as the best player in the game. This year he is anything but that.
Woods comes into the event ranked 47th in the world after an injury plagued 2014. At the tail end of a year that anyone would consider a disappointment, never mind Woods, he fired longtime swing coach Sean Foley and hired swing consultant Chris Como.
Woods believed that the swing he was using under Foley placed too much stress on his injury-riddled body and believed that it was time for a change. Even the casual observer could look at Woods’ swing under Foley and easily notice how different it was from the swing that won numerous majors under Butch Harmon.
With Como, Woods has reverted back to the swing he used back in the late 90s and early 2000s. I have been calling for Tiger to make this change for years. He had a swing that got him to the top of the game, then decided to completely overhaul it in hopes of becoming even better.
While his old swing won majors, all his new swing did was place more and more stress on his body. Woods is finally beginning to see improvement under Como. “I’m hitting numbers I haven’t hit in 15 years,” said Woods.
While Woods’ swing looks as good as it has in years, his short game has suffered under Como. In his last event at the Hero World Challenge, Woods chunked a frightening number of chips. While other players also had trouble with the tight lies around the greens at Isleworth Country Club in Orlando, no one had as much difficulty as Woods.
Although a new/old swing will certainly help, ultimately it is his short game that will determine if Woods breaks Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.
Woods shot 2-Over 73 in the first round on Thursday, 9 shots behind leader Ryan Palmer. Woods will have a lot of work to do Friday just to make the cut.
Although he struggled today on a very gettable golf course, I like Tiger’s chances going forward. He has finally made the changes I have been calling for for many years. Now he just needs to relearn how to play around the greens. He can play all the regular tour events he wants, but everyone knows it’s all about the majors for TW.