Tiger can only marvel at new longer hitters
By bbsbuzz - Wed Apr 06, 12:49 pm
But the 35-year-old winner of 14 Majors suddenly finds himself in the position he put so many other golfers when his jaw-dropping long drives started producing major titles at the 1997 Masters — behind golf’s evolutionary curve."I’m hitting it just as far. That’s the thing. It’s no problem for me hitting over 300 yards," Woods said. "But there are guys who flight it 320 (yards)."Big hitters have an advantage this week at an Augusta National layout lengthened greatly since Woods won in record fashion in 1997."It does help on the par 5s. It can be done (without it) but it just puts more stress on your wedge game," Woods said."I’m certainly not one of the longest (hitters), there’s no doubt, but I can still move it out there. I’m not one of the shortest yet."I have another gear in there where I can add 15, 20. It’s still there. But some of these longer guys, they are at 15, 20, and then they have another gear. The sport has changed. Guys are bigger and faster and can certainly move it."Woods recounted playing two rounds at the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks ago with fellow Americans Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland and receving a rude awakening on the state of his drives, his knees weakened by years of toil."I thought Dustin was long and Dustin has got nothing on Gary," Woods said. "When Gary steps on it, it’s like, ‘Whoa, are you kidding me?’ His ball is flat. When you think it should be coming down it, it just continues to fly."He hit a shot on 16 and it was a 335 carry with a bunker on the right and he hit the face of it and he’s all bent out of shape that he couldn’t carry it. He said, ‘I’ve lost the ability to carry 340 now." Woods rolled his eyes skyward, adding, "Like, sorry, I had never seen that shot."It’s much the way shots by Woods looked when he was winning four Majors in a row in 2000 and 2001. It’s an evolution Woods helped create by pushing strength work and fitness and luring bigger, faster-swinging players to golf over other sports. "That’s the new game," Woods said. "That’s what I’ve said all along, these guys who have played other sports try golf and then they decide to play golf instead. So it’s neat to see these guys transform into our sport, the power, the transition. They are doing things no one has ever seen on tour before."Woods takes pride in having performed many of the golfing feats that lured this new generation to golf."It’s special to hear guys say that because it’s very easy for them to fall in line and play other sports," Woods said."Having other athletes play the game, like a Michael Jordan, and expose it that way, has made kids think that this is a pretty cool sport to play. They try and they are hooked too and they love the challenge of it."It’s pretty neat to see the game change. The game has gotten taller and it has the gotten bigger. Guys are much more athletic and faster. It’s a different ballgame."Woods said he has a new appreciation for how rivals saw him in the early days of "Tiger-mania" and an understanding how older rivals defeated him."Now I can certainly see it that way but then the flipside of it is how I look at it now — they can hit it a long way, but I can manage myself around the golf course," Woods said.What Woods cannot do is bash the ball as he did a decade ago."I can’t swing that way," Woods said. "It took a pretty good pounding on me knee doing it that way. I tore cartilage and my (anterior cruciate ligament) over the years so I don’t want to swing that way. It’s too much pain."His 1997 swing, dismissed as too inconsistent to consistently win, was taking a toll even as his glory began."It involved too much timing," Woods said. "My knee was killing me then. That was a very difficult swing on me physically. That’s why I knew I had to change it."