Justin Parsons: Here’s why I won’t be surprised if Tiger wins at Bay Hill…or Augusta

Golf Digest Middle East columnist Justin Parsons gives his take on Tiger Woods’ chances of overturning a five shot deficit in the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational overnight.

During those long, dark Tiger-less days, I was often asked whether the former world No.1 would ever make it back to the winner’s circle. My answer was decisive – no chance.

Sadly (for me, anyway) I was forgetting a rule that the Harmon’s have taught me when it comes to judging players and talent. Butch’s first question when he is working with any player is “what have you won lately?”

We need to remember that Tiger won EVERYTHING! At all levels and across his career, he was so dominant that we took the great things he did for granted. The golf psychologists will remind us that nothing is as powerful for a player than the picture of them with the trophy.

Another logical Harmon theme is that everyone has a level. Rory McIlroy is a +6 handicap and pretty much has been since he was 14. Whether he demonstrates it each and every day, that’s his level. There have been one or two who have gone down a level or two and never made it back – former world No.1 David Duval and 1991 Open champion Ian Baker-Finch notable among them.  But Tiger’s level was even higher.

Former Open champion Darren Clarke, a regular visitor to the Butch Harmon School of Golf here in Dubai of late,  played many practice rounds with Woods in his pomp (Tiger was fascinated with the control Darren had with the driver) and quickly says he was the best he ever saw. Strike, control, length, creativity, golf IQ, short game and putting – Darren assures me that no one came close and I’m inclined to trust his judgement. So without assuming, we must remember that Tiger’s level was as high as any we have ever seen.

Attached to the demise was injury, a disastrous private life, too much swing and fitness experimentation. Each of these take time to steady and make right but it seems he’s done just that. Here’s what I’ve seen:

– His back operation was a success and he must feel better and have better balance.

– He seems much more at ease privately and publicly. Tiger grew up late in life but to be fair to him, he was pretty busy early on.

– He is doing the swing stuff himself. Tiger learned a lot from a lot of good people. It looks pretty good albeit he still gets a little loose in transition and slides/lowers/over uses his lower body. But all in all, it’s very good.

– Tiger’s fitness is probably complimentary to his injury and golf now. I think we are getting closer to having an idea of how to train golfers now but that is another topic for another day.

So tonight he needs to come from five back to win at Bay Hill. This would be astounding and the Masters run in will be well and truly on. His short game and putting make Woods a realistic chance to win or at least contending at Augusta.

Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, the favourites for the green jacket in my opinion, are missing from the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week, off prepping.

But maybe Tiger will prove me wrong again. I won’t make the mistake of writing the Big Cat off again.

Justin Parsons is the Director of Instruction at The Butch Harmon School of Golf at The Els Club, Dubai. Among his pupils are PGA Tour player Peter Uihlein, former Masters winner Charl Schwartzel and celebrated Dubai-based, Indian amateur No.1 Rayhan Thomas.


Justin Parsons

Justin Parsons is the Director of Instruction at the Butch Harmon School of Golf at The Els Club, Dubai.

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