Woods’s wonky driver demands addressing

For all Tiger Woods’s gushing praise for the swing work he is doing with Sean Foley, and for all Hank Haney and Foley’s sense of righteousness about what is best for his game, it is remarkable how neither coach has managed to solve the simple and pressing issue of restoring his confidence with his driver. His much-vaunted swing changes under Haney and now Foley have coincided with the loss of accuracy in his drives that he had under Butch Harmon and which is needed to take advantage of his power-hitting. This in turn has rendered him a golfer without a driver for many recent rounds in major-tournament golf, a situation which wasn’t quite so critical when his three-wood could match the distance of many players’ drives. However, at the British Open and PGA Championships, there were clear occasions when his decision to drive an iron or 3-wood off the tee at long courses left him with a harder second shot to set up birdie chances because of the longer distances left to the pin. When push came to shove and he had to go for broke, like on the tenth tee at Kiawah, he resorted to the driver and then promptly hit such a reckless sailing hook that it is a surprise no-one was seriously injured.

This is crisis-management golf that does not allow one of the game’s naturally attacking players to play to his strengths. Tiger should have the confidence to attack each hole with the power of his driver, leaving him less pressure on the second shot, rather than (as at Kiawah) only resorting to it when he realised that the Plan B of 3-wood and iron tee shots he was regularly forced to employ had left him too far behind the leaders.

Part of the blame for this apparent blind spot must be significantly attached to his last two coaches, whose overly scientific inculcation of swing mechanics into Tiger’s movements through countless “reps” seems to have overlooked the fact that they have not helped their student rediscover a vital aspect of any golfer’s game in being able to drive straight and long. However, Tiger is also to blame for ignoring what his gut instincts as a golfer must be screaming at him every time he notices a distance disadvantage to Rory McIlroy’s serene 320-yard drives, or realises that he is increasingly playing rescue golf instead of the greens-in-regulation stuff exhibited by the new world No.1 and current best player. He has to instruct his coach to repair the parts of his game so patently missing on the course, such as his distance driving (and pressure putting), because all the reps intended to perfect a new swing will be useless if they do not enable him to use a driver once again.

Sympathy abounds as Adam Scott suffers at the hands of golf

To watch Adam Scott throw away a four-shot lead over his last four holes to surrender the British Open was to be reminded that few sports can match golf’s intensity for shredding a man’s nerves so completely. Everyone will have their own haunting image or decisive moment, but for me it was the concern clouding the normally affable expression on his face as he held his swing finish after his final tee shot and the bewildered look that replaced it once he had missed that final putt that were most affecting. Golf’s cruellest finish seems to have happened to one of its nice guys, whose dignified reserve in its aftermath only heightened the pathos around his plight.

As Adam Scott attempts to recover from the abrupt wreckage of his dreams at Lytham, he should reflect on one or two facts that may bring him some comfort. One, apart from those last few holes where mental frailty tampered with the hitherto faultless rhythm of his swing, he confirmed that he remains one of the most talented golfers in the world today with every chance of setting himself up for another major win soon. Two, his soft-spoken and genial manner, particularly in the face of such a bruising defeat, has won him many new fans around the world. They will be watching him with new interest in the future, and fervently hoping he shares their belief that he can shatter the myth about nice guys lacking the steel to deal with major-tournament golf’s ultimate pressures.