Tiger Woods may be on the verge of a breakthrough in his swing — at least according to John Cook, who spent most of Tuesday with the former world No. 1.
“He’s excited about what he’s doing,” Cook said Thursday at a press conference for the Champions Tour’s ACE Group Classic. “It’s just a matter of getting it onto the golf course under competition and what he and Sean [Foley] have been working on. (Click here for a Q&A with Foley on Tiger’s swing.)
“[Tiger] now really has a great understanding. As of Monday, it finally clicked to him … where the face of the club needs to be at certain points, which really sounded to me like kind of old school Butch [Harmon] but with a better face angle on his backswing, which means, wow, that’s something really good.”
Woods, of course, hasn’t won since the 2009 JBWere Masters — a span of more than 500 days.
“He’s in a good place,” continued Cook. “He’s playing quite a bit, so that’s a good thing. I think that’s what he needs is just reps, more reps, go play, just go out and play.
“He’s in a place where he doesn’t think he has to hit that many balls now, he can just go play. He’s not just grinding, grinding, grinding. He’s got it.”
Time will certainly tell. Woods will next play in next week’s World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. Woods has won the event three times, the last of which came in 2008 at The Gallery at Dove Mountain.
The Accenture Match Play Championship moved to The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in 2009. Woods lost 4 and 2 to Tim Clark in the second round that year and missed last year’s event while he was dealing with his tumultuous life off the course.
This time, Woods appears to be in a much better state of mind.
“He is so happy in his life outside of golf,” said Cook, who admitted he hadn’t talked to Woods much last year. “Everything couldn’t be better. He really — he wants to play well so badly that he’s become one of us. He never had to struggle like that. He wants it so bad; now he needs to get it onto the golf course and trust it and relax and just go play, because what I saw on Tuesday was vintage.”
Still, the results have been slow to come.
In his only start on the PGA TOUR this season, Woods tied for 44th at the Farmers Insurance Open. At last week’s Dubai Desert Classic, he tied for 20th. Last year, Woods went winless on the TOUR for the first time in his career.
“I think frustration-wise, yeah [it was harder on him than any other time I’ve known him], because he was lost last year, completely lost,” said Cook. “He knew he had to make some sort of change because he just wasn’t getting it. It’s hard enough to play golf and be competitive with all the other stuff going on, and now you throw in another wrinkle where you don’t really trust what you’re doing and then you make a change and you have to relearn again and you have to take it to a golf course and compete.
“It was just the hardest thing and it just was so frustrating for him because he didn’t have really a clue, and he had always had a clue.”
Seven months into it — Woods officially began working with Foley last August – things finally seem to be clicking for Woods based on what Cook saw this week at Isleworth.
“His excitement is back, just the way he’s portraying things and his body language is upbeat again,” Cook said. “It’s not, you know, dreading the Masters. He welcomes it.
“That’s what we all need. We all need him back. He wants it, too. He still wants [Jack Nicklaus’] record. Obviously, he wouldn’t be working as hard as he is if he didn’t.” — Brian Wacker