If you took the top 3 golfers from 3 different generations, who developed their skills thousands of miles from each other and had them hit the same shots side by side – would you be able to determine what it takes to be a great golfer? Would there be any common denominators that would be visible to the naked eye?
Just such an experiment is about to take place. Tiger Woods (born in ’75), Rory McIlroy (born in ’89) and Tianlang Guan (born in ’98) are competing in a skills challenge in China on October 28. The competition is very limited in that they’re only hitting to targets from 50, 100 and 125 yards.
I have seen each of these guys hit balls in person and they each have very different golf swings. But watching them hit the same shots in close proximity to each other…will this format allow us to get a glimpse of some commonality of their greatness? Will it be obvious to everyone or only apparent to keen eyed golf instructors? Or do they just have a certain golf gene in their DNA?
I spent a week with Guan this past summer when I caddied for him in the Fedex St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tennessee.
The most remarkable thing I observed that week with him was his level of maturity. He absolutely seemed like a regular tour player. Unintimidated by the crowds or the other players. He was totally fine walking around the practice green giving a head nod and a wassup to Mickelson. No biggie.
I even asked him if he was nervous, he said no. I asked Ryo Ishikawa that also when I caddied for him and he also said no.
Makes me wonder whether they understood the question. Or maybe, they just don’t feel pressure.
Is that why these 3 are great – they don’t feel pressure? Eh…I don’t think that’s it.
Everyone knows Guan is not a long knocker, so it would be natural to assume his strength is in short shots so the format of hitting 50, 100 and 125 yard shots would favor him. But, I would rank the strengths of his game as follows:
1. putting (he is a world class putter)
2. chipping (he chips like he putts, meaning he tries to make them, and often does)
3. driving accuracy (under tournament conditions with hard fairways he can be sneaky long)
4. 175-225 yds (I didn’t keep stats on it, but he made several of his birdies from this range)
Based on my observation, Guan won’t win the challenge with Tiger and Rory.
Based on my record of predicting the future, you should bet the house on Guan to win.