SOUTHPORT, England — Paul Azinger said Thursday that Tiger Woods’ efforts to improve his swing have backfired on him.
Woods has gone through four swing changes with three coaches during his career, each time saying the objective was to get better. But in a conference call for ESPN, Azinger said that in Woods’ quest to get better, “I think he’s actually gotten a little bit worse.”
Azinger is a former PGA champion and Ryder Cup captain — and a partner with Woods in one Ryder Cup — who now works as an analyst for ESPN. He will be in the booth next week at the British Open, where Woods will play in a major for the first time this year because of back surgery.
Woods has been stuck on 14 major titles since the 2008 U.S. Open. The question on the ESPN call was whether the swing or injuries would be the greater factor if Woods does not catch Jack Nicklaus and his record 18 majors.
“I think one of the big differences that’s very rarely articulated is the fact that while Tiger in his dominance always — for whatever reason — was in this quest to get better, I don’t remember Jack ever saying that,” Azinger said. “Jack might have made some tweaks and twerks here and there … but Tiger has made astronomical changes in a quest to get better. And as a result, Tiger has actually got a little bit worse. I think we can all pretty much see that.”
Azinger said several golfers have made a mistake changing the swing, but that Nicklaus was not one of them.
“Jack understood that if he could stay the same, he would still dominate,” Azinger said. “Tiger didn’t need to get better. He just didn’t need to get worse. He needed to stay the same and he could still dominate, and in his quest to get better, it’s kind of backfired on him.”
Azinger also questioned why Woods would entrust his swing to two coaches who never competed at a high level.
Woods was with Butch Harmon, who played briefly on the PGA Tour, before turning pro and during his most dominant days in golf from 1996 through 2003. Woods overhauled his swing with Hank Haney and had a two-year stretch when he won 18 times in 34 tournaments, including four majors. He switched to Sean Foley in 2011.
Azinger said that Woods has remained successful is a testament to his greatness as a player.
“I think he’s the only guy who has dramatically changed the way his swing looks and has still been able to play at an extremely high level,” Azinger said.