Tiger and Michelle – Prodigies in Flux

WOODS AND WIE GOING DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS

It seems like only yesterday, the powerhouse that was Tiger Woods hit the ground running, slashing and burning his way through a record series of wins, brooking no opposition and taking no prisoners. Love him or not, anyone who would not agree that he was a major talent is, frankly…well, use your own words.

A bit more recently, prodigy Michelle Wie charged onto the scene with an adolescence full of sub-par rounds, featuring prodigious drives and the same apparent “storm the castle” approach as Woods, She seemed primed to serve as the LPGA’s invincible counterpart to the PGA phenom, and we were just sitting there with the popcorn, waiting for it to start. I don’t believe that we were wrong. I believe that she was a major talent, regardless of how the rest of her career might go.

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We know the rest. It happened for Tiger, in a big way. He won everything in sight, majors and non-majors. He expected to win everything, and was plunged into a funk if he didn’t. He could start his own line of green jackets, and try as we might, we couldn’t find another person to challenge him week in and week out.

For Michelle, it didn’t happen as we expected, and scholarly papers have been written on the subject, many claiming that she got freaked out by the exposure, taking on the men, not being patient, and a lot of other stuff that neither I, nor you, can confirm. For a few years now, we’ve sat with stale popcorn saying, “Ok, when does the show start?”

wie 1But what’s going on lately? The invincible athlete golfer, Woods, the king of his generation with the unshakable self-belief, concentration and evil eye for all opponents, is falling apart, after years of hitting the cover off the ball, and pulling one unlikely rabbit after another out of the hat, just out of pure brilliance. His back is going, his swing is changing from the pain, and his steel mind is no longer the scourge of the tour. People don’t fear him anymore.


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And what about Wie? What’s going on may not be as dramatic as the trials of Tiger, but have you noticed, she’s playing some really fine golf these days, and it isn’t all just about being near the top of the first round in the season’s first major this week. She’s striving for consistency. She’s striving for a repeatable, successful physical and mental strategy week in and week out, and it’s working.

What’s the difference, and what are the possibilities? I always thought of Wie as a very competitive player, but it looks as though she’s “lyricizing” her life, and her game. In a post-first round interview today, she said that she “felt comfortable out there today…my goal is to be consistent…to keep the same tempo every day…appreciate the fact that I have a chance.” These are not the words of Conana the Barbarioness. This is a grown-up talking, one that embraces fears and lack of confidence as well – “When you’re younger, you’re kind of fearless. You don’t what failure is – when you hit that good shot and face you’re fear – I have a fear of failure…of just not doing well.” Sometimes self-honesty is the best policy.


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wie 2I wonder if it’s possible for Tiger to “lyricize” at this point, even physically. If he were to go out and play with an easygoing swing, and leave the superhero at home, could he reinvent his game, and be successful in the way he was? I can’t imagine that he would ever be a short hitter, no matter how lyric he gets, but the fact is that his star is descending, and at least to a measurable point, Michelle’s is on the rise.

Maybe she’s overthrowing once and for all, the old “stuff” that she doesn’t need. Could Tiger do that to save at least part of his career? Would he still be Tiger? Whatever the answer, it appears that the destinies of these two wunderkinds could be on the verge of crossing, one down and one up. We’ll see – round 2 of the Kraft starts early in the morning, and Tiger starts…hopefully by late summer.

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