Tiger Woods is a 14-time Major winner, a past champion in the Wells Fargo Championship and he has already won this year, so why is he not favoured to win at Quail Hollow?
Woods in good form in 2012
In truth, Woods has actually been quite good in patches this year. Along with his win in the Arnold Palmer Invitational he had a second place finish in the Honda Classic, a top 20 in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and a third in the Abu Dhabi Championship on the European Tour.
He has looked more consistent, more at ease and generally more comfortable on the course, but all of his hard work to rebuild his golf swing came horribly unravelled in the Masters just less than a month ago.
The former world No 1 didn’t break par in any of the four rounds in the first Major of the year and was quite obviously struggling.
How much it had to do with his old swing coach Hank Haney releasing a tell-all book the week before the tournament is anyone’s guess, but something was very wrong and it thanks to his powers of recovery that he finished as high as 40th, which by the way is his worst finish as a professional in the Masters.
Tiger's Masters swing problems solved
In an interesting twist, instead of the usual pre-tournament press conference, Woods posted a video of himself on his website answering questions from fans, and did his best to allay fears about his swing.
"At the Masters, I was kind of struggling with my ball-striking a little bit," Woods said earlier this week.
"Sean Foley and I fixed it. It had to do with my posture. My setup wasn't quite right, as well as my takeaway, so we worked on that. I just needed to do hundreds of repetitions.
"If I can do the things that we've been working on, and get my posture and my takeaway dialed in, then yes, I have a good chance," said Woods.
This explanation might be enough for Tiger’s fans, but it obviously doesn’t have the bookies convinced, who have Tiger as the 9/1 second-favourite behind US Open Champion Rory McIlroy who is 15/2 to win.
The Mole feels that even having Tiger as second favourite is being kind. It is so difficult to believe that someone as talented as Tiger, with 14 Major titles and 99 professional wins worldwide, can have his swing so badly derailed by a bit of bad posture.
Tiger needs to play golf, not golf swing
As one of Woods’ old swing coaches Butch Harmon said after the Masters, it seemed like Tiger was playing “golf swing, not golf”. Harmon would like to see Tiger going back to playing by feel, rather than blaming every problem he encounters on a dodgy swing.
"If he ever asked me what I thought he needed to do, I'd tell him, look, go on the practice tee without anybody – without me, without Sean, without Haney, without a camera, and start hitting golf shots," Harmon said. "Hit some high draws, some low draws, high fades, low fades, move the ball up and down, move it around; don't worry about how you do it and go back to feeling it again."
Maybe it’s time Woods stopped trying to correct a magnificent natural swing and look into what else could be causing him to struggle.
As Jack Nicklaus said, "I don't know what goes on between his ears," Nicklaus said. "That's really the X factor. His golf game and his golf swing look pretty similar to what I've been looking at and he hits a lot of great shots. But you never know what's going on in somebody's head."
Inside the course: Quail Hollow
Course superintendent: Jeff A. Kent
Original architect: George Cobb (1961)
Redesign: Tom Fazio (1996-1997)
Par value: 72
PGA Tour events hosted: 10
Yardage: 6804 metres
Grass: 419 bermudagrass, perennial ryegrass (tees, fairways, rough); G2 creeping bentgrass (greens)
Water hazards: 3
2011 – Lucas Glover
2010 – Rory McIlroy
2009 – Sean O'Hair
2008 – Anthony Kim
2007 – Tiger Woods
2006 – Jim Furyk
2005 – Vijay Singh
2004 – Joey Sindelar
2003 – David Toms