When Woods returns, which will be bigger challenge — physical or mental?

February 11, 2010|By Teddy Greenstein

If Tiger Woods ever does get spotted again - and at a reported $300,000 a pop for the paparazzi, it would seem only a matter of time - I wonder if he'll be outfitted in The Riddler's costume.

You know, the one with all the giant question marks. (Maybe they can be altered to look like swooshes.)

Ever since Woods played SUV pinball in his driveway, everything about the world's greatest golfer has been clouded in mystery.

Keeping it to golf, rather than Woods' after-hours habits, the key remaining questions are these: When will he return? How will he play? And will the gallery loudmouths who normally holler "You da man!" scream "You da sham!"?

Today we'll examine a different question: When he does return to competition, will his greatest challenge be physical or psychological?

Kevin Weeks said Woods' recovery will be similar to a pitcher's enduring spring training.

"It will take time for him to build up his reps," said Weeks, the Chicago-area teacher who helped Mark Wilson and Michael Bradley score PGA Tour victories last year. "He talked about that last year after he came back from knee surgery. It's hitting enough balls to where he has that stamina to play golf."

The stamina?

"It's more than just walking 18 holes for four days," Weeks said. "There's the pro-am day and the practice round and hitting balls. Average guys don't swing at that speed, so they don't understand the toll it takes on (PGA Tour players') bodies."

Weeks said Woods will need to practice outdoors, in full view of someone, to hit off grass and be able to judge his ball flight. The "ticklish" shots, pitches from the rough and 60-yard half-swings, will be the last to come around.

"Looking from afar," Weeks said, "I don't think Tiger will come back until he is 100 percent ready to win and to dominate."

Dean Reinmuth believes Woods would "not be afraid" to come on tour as a work in progress. He points to 1998 and 2004, when Woods made it clear swing changes limited his short-term success.

"I think the layoff will be secondary," said the San Diego-based Reinmuth, who teaches Ricky Barnes and has worked with Phil Mickelson and Rory Sabbatini. "For him, the hardest thing will be getting comfortable and dealing with the personal issues.

"His issue won't be with the catcall guys; they're idiots. It's the people around you that you hurt, knowing they're OK."

tgreenstein@tribune.com


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