Date: March 26, 2013
Author: Mike Clayton / Golf Australia

Clayton: Dominant Woods hunting Hogan’s swing

Tiger Woods duly won the rain delayed Arnold Palmer Invitational on Monday morning and regained his place on top of the top of the world rankings. His fall from a seemingly unassailable place at the top of the rankings only a few years ago was precipitated by the scandal, injuries and the mastering of the fourth distinctly different swing he has employed since he turned pro in September of 1996. At Bay Hill, his driving statistics were poor. He barely hit more than half the fairways but since the Steve Stricker putting lesson at Doral he has holed the proverbial everything . It is always hard to tell from afar just how crooked his driving is because he hits so far (they all do now) and the fairways are narrowed by the tour in a futile attempt to defend courses against the ravages of the combination of modern driver and ball. Woods with his trio of wins at Torrey Pines, Doral and Bay Hill this season has proved to be the dominant player on the tour once again. A year ago as Rory McIlroy was ascending to the top of the rankings with some brilliant play, commentators were lauding the next generation who were, they argued, growing up unscarred and without fear of Woods. That suggestion was foolish in the extreme. He may have been playing relatively poorly and he did lose big championships that, in his best years, he would have won but Woods is a smart player and he understands the game better than any of his peers. He was retooling the swing into one he presumably feels will move him closer to Ben Hogan, still the benchmark for technical reliability. Having said that Hogan would shake his head at the man s ability to win whilst hitting 54% of the fairways. Hogan barely missed that many fairways in a whole season. The other point about the rankings is that they are a statistical calculation purporting to identify the best players. Jack Nicklaus was the undisputed best player in the game from the mid 1960s until, at least, the late 1970s. Others over that time including Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, Tom Weiskopf and Billy Casper had better individual seasons than Nicklaus. Had there been a similar ranking system (the current system was introduced in the mid 80s) they may have, at different times, climbed above Nicklaus. That did not mean he wasn t the best player in the game. It meant that someone else was temporarily having a better time of it. There are others who have played better golf over the past couple of seasons but Woods has reminded the world that he is the main man and he will be for some time to come. At the other end of the top 50 sits the precariously placed Geoff Ogilvy. He had a horrible finish to his second round at Bay Hill to miss a cut he desperately needed to make to ensure his place in the field at Augusta. This week he plays at Houston and next Monday morning the top 50 earn their way to The Masters. Ogilvy has a good record at Augusta on a course that perfectly suits his game and he will be desperate to play well in Houston. The great Bobby Jones once said that it was silly for a sporting event to weigh so heavily on a man s mind but you can be sure cementing up his place in the Masters will be weighing heavily on Ogilvy s mind.