WINDERMERE, FL—One of television’s most enduring programs was “Mission Impossible.” The show routinely started with the leader of the group listening to a tape outlining what needed to be done. For those of younger ages, the essence of that program was brought to life by Tom Cruise in a series of movies carrying the same name.
When I think of the new swing “consultant” for Tiger Woods, Chris Como, I think of another analogous character—Jim Phelps—played by the late Pete Graves. The classic television program was aptly named “Mission Impossible” because it engaged a certain team of individuals with a specific task to accomplish each and every week. Phelps was the point man for the team. Tasks were carried out by a series of individuals with a unique specialization necessary for the mission to succeed.
I visualize Como getting a secret tape akin to what Mr. Phelps received at the beginning of every program, but the narrative would go something like this.
“Good morning Mr. Como. You are no doubt aware the name Tiger Woods is one of the leading sports figures in the world. In August of 2014 Woods pulled himself out of all competitions so that he could spend the needed time in rehabbing from an earlier surgery. He is now looking at returning after a five-month layoff and is attempting to reclaim his position at the top of the golf pecking order.
Woods, 38, has been without a major win since June of 2008 and his last win on the PGA Tour came in August of 2013. What seemed like a foregone conclusion that he would break the record of most professional majors won by Jack Nicklaus at 18 is now in serious jeopardy.
His return to competition will take place in Orlando—his former base—and will be played at the private enclave called Isleworth where he called home for a number of years. It was at Isleworth where Woods opened himself up to immense public scrutiny and ridicule dealing with numerous sexual affairs.
Your mission Chris—should you decide to accept it—is determining if being the next swing guru for the former world number-one player is worth your expertise, time and reputation. It’s important to point out three others who have attempted to take a similar path—each was eventually sacked for a whole host of reasons. Should you fail in your assignment the secretary will disavow any of your actions. Good luck Chris.”
Seriously, Como’s role still needs to be discerned and likely will be probed this week. What will be the areas of emphasis? What techniques will Como employ? What synergy will teacher and student have in the development of their relationship?
Beyond the techno swing corrections the essence of the involvement must show a direct correlation to Woods playing better on the weekends—particularly in major events. Since 2010, there have been 20 majors contested and 40 rounds played for the final 36 holes over the weekends. Woods best finish was a tie for 3rd and he’s only had five other top five finishes. Weekends were usually when Tiger flourished but he has not scored below 70 in a major since the 2011 Masters.
Much of that inability centers through inconsistent driving of the ball and a fear Woods has developed in losing tee shots to the left. Recently, he plays a cut fade—with ball curving left-to-right—no matter what the hole may require. Early on in Tiger’s career he was able to simply overpower courses and in combination with his putting prowess was pulverizing courses as well as rivals.
Como’s main claim to fame is in biomechanics, but for Woods the issue will be developing a swing that fits what his soon to be 39-year-old body can successfully repeat without causing any major injury either new or old resurfacing again. How much analysis will be brought to bear by Como? How much will Woods need or even want? For the 37-year-old teacher out of Plano, TX, his standing will rise and fall with the performances Woods produces. In years past Woods could play with his “B” game and still win in most instances. That gap has disappeared and the newest of competitors only see Woods as one of a number of rivals. In short, the intimidation factor is long gone.
For Woods and Como, the tape they create together had best last and not face the fate of what happened each episode of “Mission Impossible” when the off-camera voice would announce, “this tape will self-destruct in 10 seconds.” That’s an end game neither Tiger nor Chris Como wants to see happen.
M. James Ward, a member of Golf Writer’s Association of America (GWAA) and past member of Met Golf Writer’s Association (MGWA), has reported on golf’s grandest events since 1980 in a variety of forums.