Vaught's Views: Woods needs a coach

April 14, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

As good as Tiger Woods has been, he's soon going to have to admit he was wrong about one thing.

Woods may not want to resume a relationship with former coach Butch Harmon, but he's going to have to at least find another golf coach if he wants to return to his dominant position on the PGA Tour.

While Old Bridge Golf Club professional Bruce Brown is not applying for the job, he says any golfer, including one as good as Woods, can need help maintaining the proper swing.

"He has to have someone he trusts that can notice subtle swing changes and work with him to correct those flaws when they appear," said Brown. "Not only does a golfer need a teacher, but it also helps him from a psychological standpoint.


"No one, even someone as good as Tiger, can keep the same golf swing day after day. Little things change and you have to have someone to help."

Brown recalls that former golf great Ben Hogan once said the secret to playing well was "never to stop learning" no matter how well you might be playing.

"If you ever think you've got it all, that's the day you stop getting better and start having trouble," Brown said.

A matter of perspective

Of course, Woods' troubles are all a matter of perspective. He did finish 22nd in the Masters last weekend. Granted, it was his worst finish in eight appearances in the tourney, but think how many other golfers would be thrilled to finish 22nd just one time.

He's also sixth on the money list this year with $1,930,050 in earnings in seven tournaments, including one win.

But he's not the Tiger of old. At the Masters, he hit just 34 of 56 fairways and only 49 of 72 greens in regulation. Those are ordinary numbers, not dominant numbers like Woods once had.

Even more telling is that in the PGA Tour statistics he once dominated, he now ranks in the top 10 in only one category - driving distance where he's sixth at 293.9 yards per drive.

In the all-around rankings, he trails golfers such as Duffy Waldorf, Stephen Ames, Zach Johnson and Mark Calcavecchia.

"He's definitely declined from where he was a few years ago and it's not just one part of his game that has declined. It has all slipped," Brown said after watching Woods fail to win a major for the seventh straight time.

"Most pros have their coach right on the practice tee with them, especially before a major. He'll be talking to them, watching the swing and looking for any flaw. Tiger doesn't have that now.

"Tiger is trying to do it all alone. He's trying to handle everything on his own. He may be trying to do too much."

Brown has no doubts Woods can become the dominant player he once was again if he'll only seek help.

Two swings is all it takes

One of Brown's prize pupils is Danville's Ben Fuqua, who won the state high school championship last fall. Brown says he can watch Fuqua take two swings and see if anything is wrong because he's worked with him so much.

"That's what Tiger needs. He has to have someone who knows his game back working with him," Brown said. "The basic part of his swing is still there."

Brown said golfer Greg Norman once said he had to hit 1,200 golf balls to feel comfortable after he made a change in his swing.

"That's the type dedication it takes to make a change, but Tiger has that dedication," Brown said. "It's just that he can't do it on his own.

"Most people would kill to be where he is now and be doing what he is. But that's not what Tiger wants. He seeks greatness and he's going to finally have to admit he does need help. Every golfer does."

It makes sense. Barry Bonds has a hitting coach. NBA stars have coaches. So do the best NFL players.

However, Brown does laugh at the suggestion that Woods' recent engagement might have impacted his play.

"I think that's a little bit of a stretch," Brown said. "But when you've been as good as Tiger has, people look for any explanation."

Soon, though, Woods is going to have to do the same and admit no matter how well he has played, he needs a coach.

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