Earl Woods deserved salute of golf world

KEVIN HAIME -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:00 AM ET

Golf lost its first father this week, and we should all take a minute to think of Earl Woods and what he gave the game.

This week Earl Woods lost his eight-year battle with prostate cancer. I don't really know a lot about the man. He was a smoker. He had two sons and a daughter with his first wife Barbara who I know nothing about. He was a lifetime soldier. He could have been a saint or he could have been a jerk.

But if you're a golfer, it doesn't really matter what kind of a man he was, it matters that he gave golf and the world Tiger Woods. And no matter what anyone says, he did a fantastic job with his fourth off-spring.

Earl raised Tiger brilliantly. He nurtured and encouraged his son without becoming an overbearing and pushy ''Sports Dad.'' He recognized Tiger's genius and found a way to maximize it.

And after all the years of hard work, discipline and unending trial and error, Tiger and Earl remained best friends and, without sounding too tacky, soulmates until the end.

So if you love golf and you love watching Tiger Woods, take a few seconds this week to think of Earl Woods.

Tip of the Week: If you want to play better golf, a lot of things could make the difference, but maybe the biggest has nothing to do with your ball striking, short game or even the way you manage your game on the course. The biggest single mistake I see average players making is that they don't prepare properly. You know the drill -- race to the golf course, wolf down a sandwich, stroke a few putts and then play predictably lousy. This year make yourself a promise that you won't play a single game unless you give yourself at least 45 minutes to warm up. You should spend half that time on your short game, hitting little half-shots, chipping, testing the sand with a few bunker shots, and hitting both long and short putts. The long ones are for green speed, the short ones for confidence. You should also hit balls for at least 20 minutes, working through your set and finishing with driver so you're ready to hit your first tee shot with confidence. A quality warm-up will also help clear your mind so you'll be less concerned by life's distractions.

Tech Talk: While we're on the topic of ways you can play better, you may want to take a close look at your putter. A lot of golfers I work with, including most women, use a putter that is too long for them. If you walk into any golf shop, you'll find most putters on the rack are 35-inches long. That's not because most of you need a 35-inch putter, it's because its easier to shorten a putter than it is to lengthen one. If you're going to drop $50-$200 on a putter, you should make sure it's the right length for you. Any golf shop should have no problem either ordering the correct length or trimming an in-stock putter for you at no extra charge. Obviously, it makes more sense to ask a pro for an opinion before cutting a putter, but some of you could probably fit yourselves based on feel and your putting stroke.

Tour Tidbits: It was an interesting week in the world of golf. Hootie Johnson, John Daly and Michelle Wie all made big headlines across the sports pages. Let's start with Wie who, in her eighth attempt, made the cut in a men's event, this one on the Asian Tour. Wie said her real goal was to become a top-10 player on the PGA Tour. I'm not sure this week's success should even be a story. Comparing the Asian to the PGA tour is sort of like comparing Mount Pakenham to Mount Everest. Keep practicing Michelle! Johnson, meanwhile, stepped down as the Masters chairman after eight years. He will be replaced by Billy Payne, who was in charge of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. I think Hootie did a great job, but I'm sure Martha Burk is doing a jig somewhere right now. Lastly, Daly continued to entertain us this week. Excerpts of his upcoming book, My Life In and Out of the Rough, came out this week. My two favourite parts? He named his second daughter Sierra after the Sierra Rehab Centre, and he was kicked out of a junior tournament for having a bottle of whiskey in his bag. Apparently, life is stranger than fiction.

KEVINH@KEVINHAIME.COM


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