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In the swing: Tiger back with a shot for the ages

Tiger’s birdie at 16 was more difficult than his famous shot at Augusta, writes Neil Cullen, and it may turn out to be just as significant.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2O1bSFf8ndU

YouTube Credit: hpgatour

WHAT A SHOT from Tiger Woods.

His 73rd PGA Tour victory at the Memorial Tournament will be remembered for one of the most amazing shots of his career on the 16th hole on Sunday.

We must not underestimate the level of difficulty involved in taking that shot on. If he didn’t hit if perfectly, he was looking at bogey or worse. The water behind the flag was in play and he could just as easily have left it in the rough and not even made the green. For him to get it close to the hole, there was such as small area of green in which he could have landed that ball and he did exactly that.

It’s not as if he was hitting out of a good lie either. That rough was deep and his ball was sitting down. Maybe there was a bit of luck involved, but throughout his career, Tiger has seemed to be able to make his own luck on occasions when it really matter.

The comparisons have been made between this shot and his famous chip-in at the 16th at Augusta National, but the degree of difficulty involved in the shot we saw at The Memorial Tournament was undoubtedly greater. Granted, it was not a Major Championship, but that doesn’t mean the pressure is not as big. Particularly in the case of Tiger Woods, it is the pressure that he puts on himself that matters, and that is always high.

YouTube Credit: SaMoDaMaNo

But while this victory will be remembered for that one shot, it was a lot more than just that special moment that delivered victory for him. Let’s not forget that he started the day four shots behind the leader. That’s not easy ground to make up on such a difficult golf course when you’re trying to catch a guy who has clearly been playing well all week.

But Woods relishes such a challenge and he put on what he called afterwards as a “stripe show” – a display of the highest quality ball striking. Four birdies in the opening seven holes sent a message to the rest of the field and was a sign of how well he was hitting it. He seemed to be in such control of the ball and the putter was working for him – an aspect of his game which has shown sign of improvement over recent months.

Natural

One thing which was noticeably different from Woods’ game this week compared to earlier in the year was his pre-shot routine. Earlier in the season he was making a practice swing with a very pronounced motion as if he wanted to shaped the ball left to right. This week, he seemed to just swing naturally and there was no sign that he was trying to engrain any particular swing thought or trying to avoid any particular miss.

This is maybe the most powerful sign of all that Tiger’s game is back to a level where he feels confident and in control. When he won at Bay Hill earlier in the year he looked confident, but this weekend he combined that with what seemed to be a much more natural routine and swing. His challenge now is to repeat such a performance and prove to himself that he now has a swing he is comfortable with. His next appearance and test will be at the US Open at Olympic Club in just two weeks’ time.

Defending US Open Champion Rory McIlroy had yet another week to forget and missed another cut. I guess all golfers go through slumps and bad patches, but things looked so bright for McIlroy early in the season when he was on the back of an amazing run of top 10 finishes and reached number one in the world rankings.

Most players are in preparation mode for the upcoming US Open and the form that has been showed over recent weeks will be the basis for the confidence that is needed to succeed at that tournament.

The consensus form listening to players and commentators is that Olympic Club favours good drivers and iron players, guys who can keep the ball in play and hit it long. Who the best of those people is will be decided in two weeks’ time.

Proud Tiger Woods: ‘I have a lot of good years ahead of me’

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