The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

Sports

April 14, 2012

Ruggiero: Tiger should take page out of Bubba's approach

COMMENTARY

Today I begin my 27th season in this space. It’s hard to believe really. I recall my very first column, written long before   the home computer. I wrote an 800-word text on lined yellow legal paper, with no spell-check or thesaurus to assist me.

When I didn’t like the way something I wrote translated, I’d start all over again. It was tedious and when I finally completed   a copy I felt worthy of turning into my editor, I had to get into my car and hand-deliver my work.

Thankfully, the writing process is so much easier today. It’s much quicker to type than to write. I have all of the information   that I require at my fingertips via the internet. And when I finalize my weekly composition, I can get it into my editor’s   hands in seconds via email.

I look forward to spending the summer with you discussing golf. For those unfamiliar with this space, I give tips on improving   your game, candid opinions about controversial topics, and shed light on the rules of the game. I like to hear from my readers.   If you have a question or comment about this wonderful game, please feel free to drop me an email at the address given below.   I promise to answer every question that I receive.

All that stated, let’s get started.

•••

Traditionally, I begin my time with you the week after the Masters. There is always a lot for me to talk about following Augusta   Sunday. This year is no exception. Gerry (pronounced Gary) “Bubba” Watson defeated South African Louis Oosthuizen on their   second hole of sudden death when Bubba miraculously executed a 160-yard gap wedge out from a jungle and onto the green, purposely   slicing his ball some 40 yards in the process.

This twosome was paired throughout the final round, making for some dramatic viewing. Oosthuizen struck first, making a double   eagle (AKA albatross) at the 2nd hole. He hit his second shot on the par five into the hole from 260 yards. At that point,   Watson found himself four shots behind but four consecutive birdies on his back nine wiped out the Oosthuizen advantage and   eventually forced a playoff.

Bubba won his first major just one week after adopting his first child, a son. His mother greeted him after the win for a   greenside embrace that saw this tough-guy golfer weeping with emotion. His father recently passed away from cancer. Also surrounding   him with congratulatory hugs were several of his Masters competitors, something you seldom see on tour. His friends wanted   to share in the joy.

The event was storybook. Gerry Watson, hot-head Nationwide Tour banger, won the Masters. He also won over the hearts of a   boatload of new fans, me included.

•••

No commentary on the first major of 2012 would be complete without some discussion of 14-time major champion Tiger Woods.   As you know, Woods finally broke a two-season victory drought a few weeks back at Arnold Palmer’s MasterCard Invitational.   His last win on tour before that was in September of ‘09. The Palmer event had many followers ready to jump back on Tiger’s   bandwagon. Not so fast. Woods’ play at the Masters was dismal and his behavior was bordering boorish.

As a player, I understand that golf can be frustrating. Tiger finished 40th but then again so did Rory McIlroy, another tournament   favorite. What separated Woods from McIlroy was how they conducted themselves when they were less than at their best.

McIlroy shrugged off his poor showing for the most part, accepting his substandard play as a part of the game. He was paired   on Sunday with Sergio Garcia and both players sarcastically celebrated birdies on the par-four ninth hole with high-fives   and hugs. The young McIlroy has learned that the game can test the mettle of a man.

Woods instead made Masters news for throwing a club to the ground after an unplanned, errant tee shot and then adding to his   fit of temper by kicking the club another 10 yards.

I get that Woods is an intense individual. Nevertheless, after 17 years on tour and under a microscope, I would have hoped   that he would have learned to temper his tantrums. With his difficulties of the past two years, you might expect that he would   have developed some perspective.

In the end, I hope that Woods regains his game and challenges the majors record held by Nicklaus, but I don’t see it happening.   He’s thinking too much on the course. He’s too mechanical. It is not all about hitting balls into the night at the range.   And it’s not about Sean Foley or Hank Haney either.

Tiger doesn’t need to learn all over again how to play golf. His issues are not physical. His problems rest much deeper —   inside his psyche. He needs to close his eyes more often, breathe deeply, and be at peace with himself. He needs to forgive   himself for past indiscretions and recommit himself to his future. He needs to relax and smile more. He needs to not take   himself so seriously and allow his game come to him.

Ironically, Tiger Woods can take a lesson from Bubba Watson. Earlier in his career, Watson had his own struggles with mind   and temper. Paradoxically, both players’ altered their approach to golf and to life after their fathers died. A now-spiritual   Watson rearranged his priorities. In order, he tells us that they are God, family, and golf.

Tiger would be well-advised to consider doing the same.

Until next week, keep it in the fairway.

Ken Ruggiero is a local golf instructor and has been writing this column for the past 27 seasons. He can be reached via email at scoreboard@niagara-gazette.com

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