Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tides That Bind

A clanging pest of a bell pierces the air,
in tune with a relentless horn that defines Sequin.
Can’t even see the pilings;
the mist has turned so thick.
Bay Point might as well be
New Brunswick or Paris.
Nothing’s quite right.
And yet everything’s safe.

The Kennebec, old man that he is,
keeps churning to steady sounds,
chasing the mysteries of the moon.
Rolling in and heading up,
and then turning as if on a string
before heading down, and rolling out.

You ache to somehow become part of the current;
to go with that flow that you hope runs free.
But you must wait till that river smiles,
or at least until a fresh paperback arrives.

With intuition half as certain
and imagination twice as kind,
the Kennebec dances with the sea
when it heeds the tides that bind.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Life's Good Friends

In my view, yesterday evening at 6:02 p.m. Eastern Standard Time marked the beginning of the 2012 golf season as much as it pinpointed the end of The Lost Years.

A friend and I chatted briefly after the cannons fired and the smoke swirled away, and he had a terrific point about the timing of TW's victory – he doesn't have to wait until his next event (at the end of January) to find out if his latest swing philosophy can take the hottest heat down the stretch. TW doesn't have to mull or ponder what might be in that regard, and that means he can get back to work on everything. 

The big news, of course, is that TW rose to a big occasion with some serious pressure – a great deal of it self-imposed for an "unofficial" event, but if you saw the telecast yesterday, there was nothing silly about TW's demeanor. Yesterday he was totally involved, and wouldn't a certain basketball team do wonders if it had a similar focus?

Roger Maltbie – a TW supporter – kept the faith on air, while Dan Hicks either reminded us of the victory drought or just basically talked too much yesterday. Maltbie's explanation of the long iron that TW mishandled with video and comments put the entire "process" into perspective. Under pressure, people (particularly golfers) gravitate toward what is comfortable, and as Roger pointed out, TW's position at the top of that swing was Classic Haney as opposed to Nouveau Foley.

Some of the keen eyes in regard to the golf swing (I'm not a member of that group, but I do pay attention to what they opine), believe TW will NEVER ________.  I bow to their acumen with one caveat: No one is going to get rich predicting what TW will NEVER do.

In my opinion, the short game has returned, and the irons, for the most part, never left. There are issues with the long swing and putter that remain, however, and in a few weeks, when TW gets back to work, it's easy to believe that he will resume his "process." But with, perhaps, a slightly different mindset.

As Raymond Floyd once said, "Golf is 100 percent mental." Raymond was not talking about high handicappers, obviously, but rather the elite – and it's the mind that separates a Sergio Garcia from a Tiger Woods. I believe the wisdom of Harvey Penick is also at play with a paraphrase of Penick's genius advice on the flatstick; "You want to be a better putter, make some putts." In other words, confidence is what makes a better putter.

Let's amplify that confident theme to winning: If you want to be a consistent winner, winning again will be the first step.

My friend used a metaphor yesterday on this thread that TW had been carrying a fire hydrant on his back for two years. And during our phone conversation, he said it was "the weight of the world."

Exactly. And it's been lifted through diligence, patience, and faith.

It's no secret TW will work hard. At times we've questioned his patience, but it's the faith issue I'm compelled to address.

Last summer when Fred Couples picked TW early, I was not fond of that pick, simply because of enormous doubt. We saw some baby steps at the Frys.com, and then the journey to Australia, where the steps got a little bigger. Three good rounds in Sydney set the stage for the Presidents Cup. And by then, even the TW haters were aware that significant progress was being made.  I thought the singles match with Baddeley was the turning point. You could see the Old Tiger Woods and the New Tiger Woods pretty much at peace with each other, and when the putts started to fall, confidence soared.

Those of us who endured vampire schedules by watching the Presidents Cup live were treated to the evolution that we've hoped to see since The Lost Years phase began. As it turned out, Fred Couples is a key figure in the return of Tiger Woods. Where would this "process" be if Couples had not picked TW? Would we have seen a similar performance at the Chevron?

I doubt it very strongly, but not so much from a golf standpoint, but rather the intangible good that one receives when a friend gives you the support you need at precisely the right time. I wonder if being picked meant as much to TW as I think it did. Fred climbed out on a very shaky limb to make a pick that many keen golf analysts criticized, but I doubt Fred relayed the pressure on him. We've discussed how Norman tried to put some heat on TW as well, and that backfired.

I want to believe that when TW went to Australia, he went to find his game, to win if he could and play as well as he could for his team, his country, himself, and for Fred. And I want to believe that the Fred part of that equation was much more than 25 percent.

James Taylor once observed that "life's good friends are hard to find."

And hard to keep when things turn awry. You know who your friends are when trouble comes.

As Tiger continued to walk down a dark, uncertain alley, maybe it helped him find the light, knowing that someone had his back, which in this case happened to be Fred Couples. I want to believe that, at any rate.