In my first three weekly sessions
physical therapist and owner David Ostrow concentrated on "releasing"the major muscles in my hip and lower
back.In each case, Ostrow,a large man with fingers and thumbs that
could puncture a propane tank, spent 40 minutes or more working his fingers
deeper and deeper into my tight and constricted muscles until they finally released.
It’s hard to describe the
resulting sensation, other than to say you get up from his treatment table feeling
like a rusty Tin Man who just got a couple of drops of oil in the right spots.
During each session, Ostrow would explain
why he was doing what he was doing, when he was doing it.He likened the process of
unlocking the new and more limber me to constructing a house.Things have to be done in the proper,
logical order.You can’t build the
roof until you’ve laid the foundation and erected the walls.Four weeks in, we’re still laying
Which brings us to my
hamstrings. With my hip and back muscles, I sort of knew they were tight and
inflexible; it’s hard not to know that when your golf swing has devolved into mostly
arms, without benefit of much shoulder and hip turn.
Eggs, no hammy
But my hamstrings are
another story entirely.I didn’t
to tell me just how bad, how tight, they had become -- I could feel it
myself.For years, I’ve been trying
to stretch my hammys, to little or no avail.I’d work out at my neighborhood YMCA,
where Jim, the PT guy, would get me
down on my back and push of first one leg, then the other.I’d cringe in pain and misery.
Until Ostrowenlightened me, one thing I didn’t realize about the sorry state
of my hamstrings is that they affect so much else, up to and including my
posture when I’m addressing a golf ball.I’m 6-foot-1 and at address, I tend to slump over the golf ball.My back, from hips to head, is not
ramrod straight, as it should be.But
according to Ostrow,
my poor posture wasn’t a back issue so much as a hamstring issue.Get those puppies stretched out properly
and my back would straighten.
Once I was on the treatment
table, it didn’t take Ostrow
long to determine that my left hammy was much tighter than my right.On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the
worst, my left hammy was a 6 or 7 on the tightness scale.Lying on my back, he could only lift my
left leg about 45 degrees off the table before I was crying, "Uncle."Normal is about 90 degrees.
Ostrow rolled me over onto my stomach and went to work "releasing" my left
"It’s the tighter of the
two, and it’s shorter," said Ostrow, as he worked."I envision it as knotted and bunched, like a wound up rubber band."
important are the hamstrings to the golf swing that we will spend the next four
sessions getting them released and stretched out:An hour on the upper part of the
left hammy, an hour next week on the lower part of the same muscle.Then, two weeks on the right hamstring,
upper and lower.
you have a job hazard," said Ostrow."I call
it the executive disorder or executive dysfunction."
millions of golfers, I spend the bulk of my day sitting at a desk in front of a
computer.In the sitting position,
your hamstrings are contracted by about three inches -- even more if you tuck
one leg under the other.This
affliction isn’t confined to desk jockeys – same thing applies sales reps
who spend all behind the wheel of a car.
problem, said Ostrow,
is that over time, you hamstrings comes to believe that the shortened position
is the normal, relaxed position.They adapt accordingly, becoming permanently shorter.Ironically, in our quest to stretch the
hamstrings, we can occasionally do more harm than good.
lot of people stretch too hard, until it hurts," said Ostrow.That, in turn, can activate what he
calls the body’s "stretch reflexor."
we stretch too much, the body gives us pain to warn that you are going to
strain the muscle," he said."The
body’s reaction to that is to actually contract the muscle that is being
following week, Ostrowwas out of town on business, so my
session was with his deputy, physical therapist John LaRue.While Ostrowworked on my upper left hammy, LaRue worked lower down, closer
to the back of the knee.
through the session, as John was
describing several ways in which a bum hamstring limits your mobility, he took
a not-so-wild guess at a case in point: how he suspected I retrieve a golf ball
from the bottom of the cup.
put money on it that one leg comes up, you bend your back down as much as you
can, then give a little in the front knee as you reach down with your left
hand," said John."Meanwhile, you’re learning on your
putter with your right hand."
is exactly how I fish a golf ball out of the cup.
the days since, the work on my left hamstring has made more difference in my
golf swing and, indeed, my non-golfing activities than anything so far.I can bend over more easily.It is a noticeable improvement.
afternoon, we move to my right hamstring.I look forward to it.
just finished reading The Big Miss, Hank Haney’s revealing new book on his six years as Tiger Woods’ coach.I know several people who didn’t
like it, dismissed it and accused Haney
of betraying Tiger; maybe so, but I
couldn’t put it down.
come under some criticism for writing the book at all, even from fellow coaches
Butch Harman and Rick Smith, who suggest PGA Tour swing
coaches assume a vow of confidentiality, like a priest or any attorney.
other hand, The Big Miss is No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, a rare feat for a golf book.That’s because it is the most intimate insider-look we are likely to get
at one of the most dominant, remarkable figures in the history of sports.Haney
goes where no authorized biography of Tiger
is ever going to go.
were several anecdotes and stories that caused me to wince, agreeing that Haney had wandered in to territory that
probably should have been off-limits.
To wit: Haney writing about what appeared to
him to became a rather distant, cool, relationship with his then-wife, Elin, before the
crack-up in his personal life. Haney also writes that at dinners in the couple’s home, when Tiger would finish, he was up and outtathere.It’s a small thing, but Haney
even recalls one evening, when he and Tiger
were watching a ballgame on TV together, when Tiger went to the kitchen and returned with a Popsicle for himself,
never offering one to Hank.That small slight stuck in Haney’s craw for years, seeming to
perfectly illustrate Tiger’s
self-absorption or narcissism.
objection that many people, including me, have about Haney including some of those details is that he came by them as a
result of being a frequent overnight guest in the Woods’ home.Compared to the kind of knife-in-the-back
recollections we get in the typical Washington or Hollywood tell-all memoirs, Haney’s stories are tame.
Who can blame
Tiger for feeling his privacy has
been invaded by a man he called a friend.But let’s be honest: Nothing Haney
reveals about Tiger or his marriage
is nearly as devastatingly revealing as Tiger’s
own self-destructive behavior.
whether Haney and Tiger were "friends" or not is very
much a running theme throughout The Big
Miss.Tigercalled Haney a friend, and Haney certainly wanted to be his
friend, but in the end, he wonders whether Tiger
is even capable of true and deep friendships.
the book details what Haney believes
is the impenetrable bubble Tiger has
constructed around himself.Tiger knows everybody, and he is
cordial with plenty of people, often referring to them as "friends." But in his
time around Tiger, Haney observes little of what he
considers genuine friendship.
From Haney’s vantage point, Tiger was never really close to famous
athletes like Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley.And when Tiger’s personal life exploded, he even shut out the few guys who
thought they were true confidants, like Mark
O’Meara and John Cook.Haney
knew he certainly was no intimate confidant.The only two people Tiger seemed close to were his agent, Mark Steinberg, and a neighborhood high school kid he played
practice rounds with at Isleworth, Corey Carroll.
what I liked about the book is that it confirms so many suspicions we all had about
Tiger:That the expectations heaped on him and
strain of being Tiger Woods weighed
on him much more heavily than he ever let on; that even at his peak, in
2000-2002, Tiger had much more
self-doubt than we knew; that despite his protestations to the contrary, Tiger knew exactly what people (and the media) were saying and writing about
him; that Tiger can be an aloof, remote,
cold-hearted bastard, even to the handful of people seemingly closest to him.
knock Tiger off his pedestal The Big Miss – Tiger had already done that to himself.But Haney
does give us plenty of insider information and evidence to show that Tiger was, and is, just another flawed
human being, albeit one with nearly superhuman ability and determination.
As Haney has pointed out time and again,
most of the book is quite positive about Tiger.Haney
regards Tiger as the greatest player
who ever lived, even if he doesn’t break Jack
Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.Haney is flat-out in awe of Tiger.He finally just decided that the
pressure of being Tiger’s coach and
the indignities of dealing with his mood swings, was
sucking the life out of him.
make too much of the Q&A video
with fans that Tiger Woods has
posted on his official website, but I don’t think it’s good news for golf or
for golf fans.
that the 15-minute, 19-question video is b-o-r-i-n-g. More concerning, it is
further evidence of a growing chill between Tiger and the media and his desire insulate to himself from nosey
scribes with pesky, embarrassing questions.
background.At most tournaments --
all majors and anywhere he is defending champion -- Tiger goes to the media center for a 30-minute pre-tournament
sit-down with the assembled media.
knows those interviews can be boring, too, often full of softball questions or
rambling non-answers from Tiger.Tiger, after all, has never been one
to spill his guts about anything.In fact, if you read Hank Haney’s
book, The Big
Miss, Haney confirms that Tiger derives much mystique and power
over other opponents by revealing nothing, letting no one inside his head.
since his personal life crack-up, Tiger’s
cordial but arm’s-length relationship with the media has deteriorated to the
point of open hostility.Monday, at
the Wells Fargo Championship in
Charlotte, Tiger declined to do the
usual press conference and instead posted a video on his website of himself
answering fan questions.
wrong with that?Nothing, per
se.I have read a few blogs by
people who think the media is getting its comeuppance and deserves the
stiff-arm from Tiger.I won’t argue that point one way or the
will argue is that if this is what we are going to get from Tiger from now on, he might as well go
into exile.Did you get a load of
the questions he hand-picked to answer on the video?
have you been working on since the Masters?
is your favorite trophy of the four majors?
line, if Tiger adopts a new
communications policy of going straight to the fans, avoiding the media
whenever possible, allowing only softball questions to penetrate his personal
space, no nobody benefits.
think he does, but he doesn’t.What’s good for golf and good for Tiger
is him being compelling.That
fan video he posted is not compelling.
Last week at FitGolf
in Conshohocken, physical therapist David
Ostrow released the Iliascus
muscle on the front of my pelvis.This week, to "release" the corresponding muscle in my lower back, he
flipped me over onto my stomach and went to work on my left quadratus
lumborum, which resembles a flank steak, wraps along the side of your back,
between the 12th and 11th ribs.When it become tight and contracted over
time, as my has, it contributes to the asymmetry of my entire body, with my
left shoulder being lower than it should be and my left hip being higher than
it should be.
The resulting affect on the golf swing is that the
rotation on my back swing is restricted.No turn, no torque.No
torque, no distance.
After a few minutes of working on the muscle, Ostrow had me roll over onto my right
side, whereupon he gripped my left pelvis with his left hand and the bottom of
my rib cage with his right hand – and then me began to pull them apart,
stretching my entire left side.
"We are releasing the back muscle," he told me.
It didn’t hurt but it was not altogether pleasant, either.
Afterwards, Ostrow took me out into the main studio to show me a side-stretch
exercise for the coming week.After he demonstrated, I tried it.It felt good – rather, it felt good for me.I won’t mind
doing it all week.
With my swing and my body fully
evaluated at FitGolf
in Conshohocken in Week 1, it was time for David
Ostrow and me to get down to work.The goal in the coming weeks being to
improve my flexibility and range of motion, both of which have more or less
ossified over time.
In Ostrow’s judgment, the place to
start was pretty much a no-brainer: my hip flexor.
In laymen’s terms, the hip
flexor is the group of muscles around the hip and pelvic area that control the
rotation and movement of your hips.In my case, my right side is okay.It’s my left hip and pelvis that are tight to the point that I can’t
rotate properly when I swing a golf club; it’s bad enough, in fact, that when I
walk long distances, I tend to limp slightly or almost waddle because my left
side won’t turn and flex as it should.
"We’re in the Keystone state
and I think of the pelvis as almost being the keystone area of the body," said Ostrow. "It unlocks a lot."
Digging in the Iliacus
Key to addressing my hip
flexor was "releasing" my Iliacus
muscle, a teardrop-shaped affair that attaches to the hip by a tendon, then
heads north before fanning out and attaching across the upper rim of the
pelvis.It helps pull your leg
forward when you walk.
To work on it, Ostrow had me
lay face-up on his examining table and he began working the fingertips of his
right hand into the Iliacusmuscle.He pressed firmly and steadily with his
fingertips without really messaging the area; it didn’t hurt but it was mildly uncomfortable.
Ostrowlikened what he was doing to pressing on skin of an onion until that outer
layer began soften; then he worked his fingertips in a little deeper, until the
next layer of the onion, or my Iliacus muscle, was
soft.Ostrow would continue working
his fingertips until the Iliacus eventually, almost magically, released.
In some people, this process
takes five minutes, said Ostrow; in others it takes three hours.My Iliacustook about 30 minutes to release, which is about average -- and
there was, as always, a warning.
"When the muscle is about to
release, my fingertips get warm to the touch," said Ostrow, holding out his hand for
a moment for me to feel his fingertips.Sure enough, they were warm.He returned to his work and within a few moments, done.
"When it releases, some people
say they feel ‘light,"said Ostrow. "Some
say ‘looser."Some say ‘softer.""
When I stood, I too could feel
a difference.My left hip felt, I
don’t know, looser, freer.When I
took a few steps, my left hip felt like it was moving better.
The point in dealing with my
hip flexor first was to begin to deal with what Ostrow called the "asymmetry" of
my entire body.Because my hip
muscles on left side were so tight and contracted, it actually made my left leg
slightly shorter, which has all kinds of ramifications on other muscles in your
midsection, not to mention your golf swing.
Out in the studio, Ostrow assigned
me an exercise
to do at home every day for five minutes to keep the hip flexor loose.Basically, I lie across a giant rubber
ball, with my left hip muscles stretched out.I’ve done it almost every day and, while
it doesn’t hurt, I do find myself watching the minutes and seconds bleed off
the clock until I can quit.
Seriously, my what
As our second session was
told me what we’d tackle next week; frankly, it sounded a little creepy:For reasons he cannot explain, the
muscles up and down the left side of my upper torso have tightened and shrunk
to the point that my left shoulder is slightly lower than my right shoulder,
and my left hip is slightly higher than my right, truncating the area between
my left shoulder and left hip.
While it sounds bizarre, Ostrow said that
upwards of 90 percent of people have this same phenomenon to some degree.It can happen on the left side or
the right side, and there is no apparent explanation for which side it happens to.The fact that I am left-handed has
nothing to do with the asymmetry affecting my left side, said Ostrow.
What especially surprised me
was that I had never noticed any of this until Ostrow had me standing in front
of a wall full of mirrors examining my reflection.Sure enough, my left shoulder is
perceptively lower than my might.
The golf test
Nothing puts Ostrow’s work to
the test more than playing a round of golf.I did that three days after our session,
on Saturday, monitoring my body at every step.
While my score didn’t drop
dramatically – at all, really -- I could definitely feel difference in my
left hip.I walked better, more
loosely, and at least in my head, I imagined a slight improvement in my hip
rotation when I swung.
few final thoughts and observations from the 2012 Masters...
Watson’s recovery shot from out of the woods on the 10th –
the second playoff hole – is an instant classic that will join the Masters all-time highlight reel, along
with Tiger Woods’ slow-mo chip-in at the 16th (In your life...!) and Phil
Mickelson’s 6-iron at the 13th, from off the pine straw and
behind the tree.
Speaking of Phil, what the
that sprayed tree shot at the 4th on Sunday was understandable given
the pressure of the moment.But the
decision to try to chop it out of the bushes right-handed, not once but twice?
was enough to make me revisit my Masters
predictions post from a few days ago.To wit:
I like Phil Mickelson, and he is a true Masters
stud, but Phil seems to have lost half a step at 41. I’ve also
found myself questioning Phil’s thought processes ever since he started
wearing those too-tight shirts with the weird collars. Any man who can
stand in front of a mirror wearing one of those shirts and think he’s good to
go, can no longer be trusted to make completely sound decisions on the back
nine at Augusta on Sunday.
the shirt wasn’t too tight, but my comments about trusting Phil to make sound decisions turned out to be spot on.
Don’t even get me started on Tiger.Just when you think he’s back, nah, he’s
not.How can somebody play like he
did two weeks ago at Bay Hill, then
collapse like a Walmart
pup tent at Augusta – a course
and tournament he has owned to the
tune of four green jackets.
the guy somehow managed to tarnish his tarnished image even worse by dropping a
very audible G—damn bomb on the
13th on Saturday.Kicking the club at the 16th was what you’d expect from a
spoiled 14-year-old.He embarrassed
On the issue of Augusta National GC
remaining all-male, I’ve got to say I missed the call this time.I thought they’d embrace Ginny Rometty,
the new CEO of IBM.
Why?Because Billy Payne, the current chairman of Augusta National, is a man of these modern times.He understands how it appears to the
outside world to have a club that purports to be a symbol of promoting and
advancing the game to allow to itself to be such blatant symbol of a bygone
know it’s a private club and they can do what they want, invite who they want,
create what ever little world they want.But to what end? And at what cost to the reputation to the club?
was one thing back when Martha Burk,
feminist activist, wanted former chairman Hootie Johnson to induct a woman member, any woman, just to make a point.This time, it’s almost like a personal
snub of a particular woman – an important, success corporate titan of a
woman.You’d think IBM would be
pissed off for her.
This whole "patrons" thing has suddenly started to bug me. I wince and squirm a little every time I
hear one of the CBS guys, and now even the players, assiduously refer to the
gallery, the fans, the spectators as "patrons."
C’mom, is "patron"
a higher grade of spectator?The
patrons seem to wear the same goofy hats and holler the same dopey lines, like You da man, Tiger!!!
whole idea is so...artificial and transparent.
What I really want to know after Sunday is what happened to that "patron" who
got nailed by Peter Hanson’s errant
drive at the 8th hole.I
can’t find anything anywhere, not even in the Augusta Chronicle. If you missed it, here it is: