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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Team Sports and Tiger


Much has been made about how Earl Woods raised Tiger to be laser-focused on golf and little else. Because of Tiger's individual success on the course, few people have knocked this myopic approach. Some have suggested that without the intense grooming, both physical and psychological, Tiger would not have the killer instinct or insatiable desire that is required of a golfer to beat Jack Nicklaus' records.

That all may be true, but I can't help but think that Tiger missed out on a lot of things that normal kids do, including playing team sports. Nearly every young red-blooded American plays soccer, football, basketball, and baseball (or some combination of the four) right though grade school. And most play in high school. However, Tiger never experienced being a member of a team, and I think this has really hurt his ability to thrive in the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup.

Team sports build a different set of skills and competitive characteristics not found in individual sports like golf and tennis. Winning and losing as a team, relying on others for your success, and cooperation are all positive attributes of team sports. Other professional golfers, namely the Europeans -- who play soccer, rugby and other team sports throughout their youth -- carry their love of team sports with them into team competition at each of these bi-annual events. Tiger doesn't have this experience and knowledge to fall back on, and it shows up in his record.

For Tiger to get a point or a half-point, the captain of the team shouldn't have to be ultra-careful that he pairs him with a certain type of player/person. The captain shouldn't have to worry that there won't be chemistry in four-ball. Tiger should know what it's all about to have a teammate. Sadly for him, he can't go back in time and insert the positive elements of team sports into his makeup. He may never be able to get over it. He's a one-man wrecking crew when it's him against the field, but when he's on Team USA, he's fair to middling at best.

Chalk it up to Earl's relentless pursuit of living vicariously through his son. Tiger's definitely not "normal" now, but was he ever?

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

JC writes-
Interesting perspective that may explain his Ryder Cup record. Just curious, any idea on the Cardinal record while he was there? I know it is not the same format as the Ryder Cup, but the team does play other schools.

PS Thank you for leaving out the Sparty collapse comments. It was painful enough to watch.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you have as much talent as Tiger does I can't fault his parents and advisors for developing it as intensely as they did. From what I see, he looks pretty well adjusted and very at ease with himself - and I doubt if he misses the high school gym experience or his last couple of years at Stanford.

An explanation I fall back on for the poor US performances at recent Ryder Cups is the focus in US golf, encouraged by the PGA tour, on medal play rather than match. The Europeans grow up playing head to head match play - not only is it a more social game it encourages a tough, competitive streak very different from the inward focus so useful in medal. How many US golfers have ever played a true foursomes match? Not many I'd bet. Europeans play it all the time. I think as long as the format of the Ryder Cup remains the same, we'll have to be happy with winning once every 5 or 6 times. The Europeans are used to a very different game and the Ryder Cup fits it very well.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Jack said...

US should lobby for captain's choice format

9:58 AM  
Blogger riord said...

Maybe all the losing from the US has something to do with the fact that America is so dominant that we dont have any drive to beat up on the weaker guys in sports. I bet they'd win if those guys were wearing turbans.

10:09 AM  
Blogger JTALIFER said...

I am simply amazed at how bad we are in the Ryder Cup. We have no drive, desire or expectations to win. Phil just misses putts and stands there and smiles like a goof ball. The Americans simply care about themselves and themselves only. They want the individual spotlight and that is it. Pathetic!!

10:23 AM  
Blogger John Gorman said...

JC-
Even though Tiger played on a "team" at Stanford, the format of the tournaments is similar to the way it is on Tour. The only difference is they add up the total scores of the top 5 players on the team. He probably gained a sense of team while in college, but the medal play format prevented him from tasting the formats used in the Ryder Cup.

MSU played well for three quarters. I guess we were due.

Anonymous-
You make some very valid points. Thanks for the feedback. I do however wonder if Tiger regrets not ever playing Little League or Pop Warner. Wouldn't you bet he thinks about that every once in a while? It's easy to say now that it worked fine for him on a professional level, but maybe not so much on a personal level.

Riord-
No comment.

Talifer-
Don't you think the US needs to select guys who have a good time and can go on birdie binges? I'd like to see Beemer, JB Holmes, Jason Gore, and Bubba Watson make the team. They'd be tough to beat in a team format.

3:50 PM  
Blogger JTALIFER said...

I agree JG! Lets get some guys that really want to play and have fun out there. The entire time I was watching this year, I saw the Euros laughing, high-fiving, and proud to be there. The Americans looked like the were playing an individual event. I am over it for now!! It just irritates me to think about it.

p.s. This is the big weekend we wait for every year. Purdue/Notre Dame. We have some weapons. If we win this week against the green midgets (little people to be P.C.), we will be in the top 25 for sure. 16.5 point dogs. I have Boilermaker hope though!!!!

9:43 AM  
Blogger John Gorman said...

Tali-
Are we still on for $25 straight up? Those Boilers are tough!

1:52 PM  
Blogger JTALIFER said...

How many points are you giving me JG?

2:14 PM  
Blogger John Gorman said...

Earlier in the year, you didn't want any points. I'll give you six to make it fair.

4:26 PM  
Blogger JTALIFER said...

6 stinkin points? Your boys are favored by 16.5. make it 9 and we got a deal!

9:05 AM  

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