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Meet the 3-year-old golf prodigy born without a right hand

When Tommy Morrissey was 13 months old, he began watching golf telecasts with his father Joe and “he’d watch it as though he understood what was happening,” his mother Marcia said.

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At 18 months, he began mimicking what he was seeing on those golf telecasts, meanwhile, getting angry when someone changed the channel.

So his parents gave him a plastic club and ball and he began swinging away and hitting the ball with uncommon efficiency for a toddler, more so for one born without a right hand.

“My husband plays golf and I play golf,” Marcia said. “Thomas became obsessed with it. He started watching YouTube instruction all on his own, mostly Bubba Watson, really. So we began nurturing his obsession. It’s unreal.”

Tommy is now three, has real equipment and plays as often as time and his parents allow, which is frequently, given that they’re members at Frenchman’s Reserve Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, near their home in Jupiter, and Linwood Country Club in Linwood, N.J., where they spend summers.

They took Tommy to Linwood’s professional Jeff LeFevre this summer. “He immediately took a very nice, natural square setup,” LeFevre said. “He took the club back to parallel and paused at the top. When he hesitates at the top he looks at the target, then back to the ball.

“He never whiffed one. And after watching him hit a couple hundred balls now it’s amazing to me that he never ever whiffs.”

Doctors at Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia predicted that he’d have exceptional hand-eye coordination, Marcia said. “His body and his brain think he’s right-handed, but without a right hand his brain has to compensate in ways yours and mine would not.”

Marcia, meanwhile, is reading “Imperfect: An Improbable Life,” Jim Abbott’s autobiography. Abbott, who was born without a right hand and played 10 years in the major leagues, often spoke about his indifference to not having a right hand.

The same holds true with Tommy, Marcia said. “Thomas has no idea he’s any different than anybody else,” she said. “He just never even questions it.”

The first time LeFevre saw him hit balls, tears came to his eyes, he said, a reaction others have had, too. “You’re heartfelt for what he’s going through,” he said, “then you realize he doesn’t see it as a handicap, that he was just born with one arm and that’s the way it is.”

As for his passion for the game, he once temporarily lost his putter. “Boy, was he upset. He had such a fit,” LeFevre said. “His passion is just incredible.”


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News & Tours

Brendon de Jonge got off to a worse start than most amateur golfers playing over Labor Day Weekend will

Brendon de Jonge arrived at this week's Deutsche Bank Championship with a good chance of advancing to the third leg of the FedEx Cup Championship. But by the third hole of the first round at TPC Boston, his 2013-14 PGA Tour season was all but over.

Related: 7 things you need to know after Week 1 of the Playoffs

After a 280-yard opening drive in the fairway on No. 10 (his first hole of the day), things went bad quickly for the 34-year-old Zimbabwean. De Jonge found the water with his approach shot and after taking a drop, he took four more shots to finish.

On the par-3 11th, he found a greenside bunker. His first shot from the sand didn't get out. His second went well over the green. Three shots later, he had recorded a disastrous second straight triple bogey to start his round. "Triple doubles" are good in basketball. "Double triples" in golf? Not so good.

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The top 70 players on the FedEx Cup points list will advance to next week's BMW Championship at Cherry Hills. De Jonge entered this week's event at No. 79 after advancing to the Tour Championship last year for the first time.

Related: 5 things to talk about on the course this weekend

De Jonge certainly won't be thrilled with today's round, but he should be more upset with himself about how he finished at the Barclays last week. Following an opening 66, he shot over par the final three rounds to finish T-61 and miss out on a great opportunity to pick up points in the volatile playoff system. Now he needs to pick up shots fast if he's going to make the cut and move on.

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News & Tours

Charles Manson, a judge and a vote that kept the U.S. Open from Los Angeles CC…until now

Los Angeles Country Club has a colorful history that includes its proximity to the Playboy Mansion (adjacent to the 13th green) and Groucho Marx’ failed bid to join, prompting him to famously say, “Why would I want to belong to a club that would have me as a member?”

Its history, too, has included occasional flirtations with the USGA about playing the U.S. Open on its renowned North Course, the latest chapter revealed on Thursday.

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The ’54 U.S. Junior Amateur, meanwhile, was played at LACC and was to be a prelude to its hosting the U.S. Amateur in ’56 (and likely the U.S. Open sometime after that). But when a crowd of 3,500 showed up for the Junior Amateur final, the membership recoiled at the thought of crowds traipsing across its course that it withdrew its offer to host the Amateur.

The last time that LACC entertained U.S. Open overtures was 1982. Sandy Tatum, a past president of the USGA and a powerbroker within the organization, grew up playing LACC (his father was a member) and was a strong advocate on behalf of the 1986 Open going there.

Tatum also had an ally in the club president at the time, Judge Charles Older. His Honor was no obscure judge, incidentally. He was the presiding judge in the trial of serial killer Charles Manson in 1971 and was the man who sentenced Manson to death.

Eddie Merrins, then the head pro at nearby Bel-Air Country Club, once said that Older wished to bring the Open to LACC “so [the public] could see that the members of the club weren't so bad after all.”

Two years before Older’s death in 2006, I reached him by phone to ask about the Open discussions. “I don’t think I want to talk about that,” Older said, hewing to the club’s policy of keeping club business private.

Older reportedly was one of four on the LACC board in favor of the club hosting the Open. But five were opposed. End of discussion. Until now.

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News & Tours

Los Angeles Country Club on brink of being awarded the 2023 U.S. Open

Los Angeles Country Club is close to a deal to host the 2023 U.S. Open.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the club's membership has been notified via email of an impending vote about hosting the Open, an event that has not been played in the Los Angeles area since Riviera Country Club held the 1948 playing won by Ben Hogan. In 2017, Riviera co-hosts the U.S. Amateur with Bel-Air CC, while Los Angeles Country Club hosts the 46th Walker Cup. A contract with the USGA has yet to be signed.

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"As a general rule, the USGA keeps its site selection process confidential to protect future sites and related parties. In this instance, we confirm that the USGA and Los Angeles Country Club are exploring the possibility of conducting a future U.S. Open Championship at the club," the USGA said in a statement. "There are several important steps required in the Championship selection process to ensure its success, including garnering the support of the Club’s membership and evaluating the feasibility of conducting a world-class championship in the heart of the Los Angeles community. We are appreciative of the opportunity to continue the process."

Ranked 41st on Golf Digest's most recent ranking of America's 100 Greatest Courses, the North Course has long been regarded for its stern examination and its remarkable location between Beverly Hills and UCLA’s Westwood campus. Although it has hosted two prior USGA events, the 1954 U.S. Junior Amateur (won by Bud Bradley) and the 1930 U.S. Women’s Amateur (Glenna Collett), it has never hosted the USGA's signature championship.

If ultimately awarded, this will be the first U.S. Open played in the heart of a major American city. The 7,236-yard North Course features views of the Hollywood Hills and west to the South Bay, yet still exudes a rural sensibility with several holes playing along or over a sandy, sycamore-dotted barranca.

The North Course underwent a restoration in 2010 by architect Gil Hanse with -- full disclosure here -- assistance from the author of this story. As with many classic designs, tree plantings had become robust and the intricate bunker style of George Thomas and William Bell had been lost due to time and traditional maintenance practices. The restored course hosted the 2013 Pac-12 Championship won by California. Max Homa of Cal won the individual title a month before claiming NCAA medalist honors.

Releasing news of a club hosting the U.S. Open before a contract has been signed is an unusual change for the USGA, but with modern communication methods, word of the membership vote was likely anticipated and not unprecedented. 

Recently, the R&A announced a future Open Championship for Royal Portrush, also pending a membership vote this fall. 

The possibility of committing to Los Angeles Country Club in 2023 solidifies a USGA commitment to West Coast dates in the next decade, a region appreciated by Executive Director Mike Davis due to more reliable June weather conditions, which allow for fast, firm setups. Economically, the West Coast also allows for an East Coast prime time finish and higher television ratings. The USGA begins a 12-year television contract with Fox Sports in 2015.

Next year, the U.S. Open is played outside of Seattle at Chambers Bay, followed on the West Coast by Pebble Beach in 2019 and Torrey Pines in 2021. Other host sites awarded future U.S. Opens include Oakmont (2016), Erin Hills (2017), Shinnecock Hills (2018), Winged Foot (2020). 

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News & Tours

Having seen the light over membership issue, the R&A is now leaving little to chance

However resistant the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews has been to inviting women members in the past, the club sure appears intent on getting them in now. In the ballots that went out last week to its roughly 2,500 members, the club asked two questions: Are you in favor of women members? And if so, would you be open to letting 15 women in at once?

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In a departure, the R&A is allowing members to vote on the women's issue remotely. 
Photo by Getty Images 

More telling than the questions themselves are the revised conditions for voting. For 260 years the bylaws of the club required members to show up in St. Andrews to cast a ballot. Now it says members can vote remotely. Once requiring two-thirds to change a bylaw, this time it's merely seeking a majority. 

Both are reflections of an organization that wants to eliminate any risk of an old-school local faction within the club conspiring to halt progress. 

"Society is changing," outgoing R&A secretary Peter Dawson said in March when announcing the General Committee's recommendation to invite women. "Sport is changing. Golf is changing. And I think it is appropriate for a governing body to take this step."

Curiously, the results of the voting will be announced the same day Scotland will vote on whether to secede from the United Kingdom. Coincidence or not, there's always a chance, as Golf Digest contributing editor John Huggan joked, R&A members will get confused in casting their ballot and women will be banned from Scotland.

For all the hand-wringing over Augusta National's former all-male membership -- the host of the Masters finally invited women members in 2012  -- the R&A membership issue carries far more significance. As opposed to Augusta National, where women have long been invited to play and stay, the R&A literally bans women from its clubhouse -- a symbolic indignity, sure, but also one with practical and professional consequences.

In July, Louise Richardson, the principal of the University of St. Andrews, described to the New York Times the disadvantage of not having access to the R&A down the road from her office. Her two immediate predecessors were granted honorary memberships to the club, but Richardson said she was often left to conduct important university business from afar.

“A supporter of the university got in touch and asked if he could possibly have lunch at the R&A today,” Richardson said to the Times. “I had to arrange for somebody I know to take him to lunch at the R&A because, of course, I can’t. And I had to arrange  for another member of the staff to take his wife to lunch some place in town because, of course, she can’t get into the R&A, either.”

Should the resolution pass to invite 15 women in an inaugural "class" of new members, Richardson is likely to be one of them. Other names mentioned as possibilities include former USGA president Judy Bell, and Lady Angela Bonallack, a past Curtis Cup player and the wife of former R&A captain and secretary Sir Michael Bonnallack.

But that's all contingent upon the R&A first allowing any women at all. It would seem like a foregone conclusion, but then, with something that's taken this long, it's probably best not to assume.

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News & Tours

Who would you pick for the Ryder Cup team? Take this blind test to find out

At this point, it's probably fair to assume that Keegan Bradley and Hunter Mahan are locks for two of U.S. captain Tom Watson's three wildcard picks for next month's Ryder Cup. They both have their downsides -- the two have just one combined PGA Tour win since 2012 -- but solid recent play and past experience means they'll both probably get on the team.

The problem is that leaves only one more spot for a bunch of other fairly prominent players.

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Another problem is that as soon as you start asking people who they might select, their minds automatically jump to the biggest names on the list. But that doesn't feel right, so we decided a blind test was the only fair way to do this. Answers are in bold at the bottom. If you want to be lame and find out the names first, feel free. If not, here are your five leading candidates. . .

PLAYER A

World Ranking: 39

Wins in 2013-2014 season: 1

Top tens in 2013-14 season: 7

Wins in 2013 season: 0

Major wins: 0

Ryder Cup Record: N/A

Presidents Cup record: N/A

Last five events: T-7, T-12, T-8, T-40, MC


PLAYER B

World Ranking: 42

Wins in 2013-14 season: 1

Top tens in 2013-14 season: 7

Wins in 2013 season: 0

Major wins: 0

Ryder Cup Record: N/A

Presidents Cup record: N/A

Last five events: T4, T39, T45, 72, T46


PLAYER C

World Ranking: 32

Wins in 2013-14 season: 1

Top tens in 2013-14 season: 8

Wins in 2013 season: 0

Major wins: 1

Ryder Cup Record: 2-2-0

Presidents Cup record: 5-3-2

Last five events: MC, T-31, MC, T-5, T-99


PLAYER D

World Ranking: 36

Wins in 2013-14 season: 0

Top tens in 2013-14 season: 3

Wins in 2013 season: 2

Major wins: 0

Ryder Cup Record: 1-2-0

Presidents Cup record: 2-3-0

Last five events: T-25, T-12, T-13, T-5, MC


PLAYER E

World Ranking: 30

Wins in 2013-14 season: 0

Top tens in 2013-14 season: 4

Wins in 2013 season: 1

Major wins: 0

Ryder Cup Record: N/A

Presidents Cup record: 3-5-2

Last five events: T-51, T-41, T-27, T-2, T-15





Have you made your selection? Are you sure? OK, here are the candidates, revealed. . .





Player A: Ryan Moore

No Ryder or Presidents Cup experience to speak of, but arguably putting together the best year of anybody else on the list.

Player B: Brendon Todd

Another experience-less player putting together a good season, but recent form could be a concern.

Player C: Webb Simpson

He's won a major and has experience representing his country, but it's been an iffy season, and his only win came in October 2013.

Player D: Brandt Snedeker

The only player on the win with two wins last season has experienced a slight up-tick in form recently, albeit from a fairly low base.

Player E: Bill Haas

Has the most world ranking points of anybody else listed and is trending up, but his lack of Ryder Cup experience will work against him.
 

  

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News & Tours

Arnold Palmer after pacemaker procedure: "I wish everyone felt as good as I do"

LATROBE, Pa. -- Arnold Palmer has logged millions of air miles in his life, nearly all of them piloting his own planes for 60 years, but it was a short helicopter ride he took nearly two weeks ago that was one of his most important flights in recent memory.

On Friday, August 18th, a day after telephoning his cardiologist and family physician Dr. Robert Staffen to report that he was feeling poorly, Palmer immediately was sent by helicopter to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh. Three days later, he underwent a pacemaker implant procedure for an irregular heartbeat.

Related: Arnold Palmer's timeless tips

"I'm fine, and I'm continuing to feel better," Palmer said Thursday morning in his office located across from Latrobe Country Club, his boyhood golfing home that he now owns.

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Palmer had just returned from a checkup with his doctor, and he was told that his recovery is progressing on schedule. "Except for the fact that I have a hole in my chest, I'm OK," he said with a wry smile. "I don't even know it's there, really, except it itches."

And except for the fact that he can't play golf for 10 more days. He is not yet allowed to lift his left arm above his shoulder (though he insists on demonstrating that he can do it), a post-operative precaution so he doesn't adversely affect the new wiring. He can, however, resume his three-times-per-week workouts with his personal trainer.

Palmer was back at work the day after surgery, and among his current tasks is getting through a mountain of notes, letters and get-well cards stacked in a wicker basket behind his desk. One of his favorites is a handmade note written in crayon on orange construction paper.

"They come from all kinds of people of all ages -- and they're still coming in," said Palmer's longtime media representative, Doc Giffin.

Palmer, 84, is reluctant to say how serious his condition became. He explained that during his checkup earlier in the day it was determined that he is using only about two percent of the capacity of his pacemaker. "And I'd be happy if that's all I ever had to use," he said. "So things are good. I feel good. I wish everyone felt as good as I do."

What seemed to make him happier than his own well-being was news that a close relative had weathered a more serious health crisis. He expected the worst when his mobile phone rang late Thursday morning, but instead he was pleased to hear the voice of his in-law, Robert Saunders. The 85-year-old father-in-law to Arnie's daughter, Amy, underwent a heart procedure a few days ago in which doctors gave him a 50-50 chance of survival.

"He sounded great," Palmer said, smiling broadly. "We talked about five minutes. He said he wanted a milkshake."

Palmer turns 85 on Sept. 10, and he said he had no special plans that day. "Is that coming up again?" he said, pretending he was not aware. "Just peace and quiet, nothing else, really."

Photos: Arnold Palmer's Golf Digest cover shoot with Kate Upton

Of course, it will be around that time when he can start hitting a few balls on the driving range again.

Most people who get a pacemaker might find golf difficult. But Arnold Palmer won't. He showed why. The seven-time major championship winner unzipped his tan Ryder Cup jacket and pulled back his white shirt. Under clear medical tape there was a bulge on the left side of his chest, high up, just under his collarbone and near his shoulder -- far higher than for most anyone else who receives a pacemaker.

That's right. It was put there so it wouldn't interfere with his golf swing.

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Throwback Thursday

Recalling that time Gary McCord was banned from the Masters (Oh, and Tiger Woods won his first of three straight U.S. Amateurs)

Twenty years ago, two noteworthy golf-related events overlapped. CBS announcer Gary McCord was banned from covering the Masters and Tiger Woods won his first of three straight U.S. Amateurs. The two shared the spotlight (sort of) on the September 2, 1994 cover of Golf World:

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Both were important for different reasons. We'll start with Woods, who made a lot of history that week at TPC Sawgrass. The 18-year-old Californian became the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur as well as the first golfer to win the tournament in addition to winning the U.S. Junior.

Related: Augusta National's unwritten rules

Woods also made the biggest comeback in the history of the event, rallying from six down in the final match to Trip Kuehne. In the cover photo, Woods reacts to making a 14-foot birdie putt on TPC Sawgrass' famed 17th hole -- the 35th hole of the match -- to take his first lead of the day. 

The thrilling victory gave Woods his first of three straight U.S. Amateurs (he won three straight U.S. Juniors from 1991-1993), an accomplishment that might trump anything he's done as a pro. But Woods nearly didn't have a chance to make that putt when his tee shot on the island green landed about a foot from the water, but spun back to stay dry. 

"That was divine intervention," said Ernie Kuene, Trip's dad and caddie, in Brett Avery's story for the magazine. "And (Tiger's) had it for three years."

Related: Tiger and Sean consciously uncouple and Win McMurry's ice bucket fail

Whatever you want to call it, it's fair to say Woods had a better week than McCord. In that same issue, Golf World reported CBS confirmed the broadcaster would not be allowed to participate in the following year's Masters telecast. No one at Augusta National commented in the story, but Susan Kerr, then CBS director of programming, said the network's decision was made because Masters officials "were not comfortable with his style." 

The reported quotes that got McCord in trouble? Saying "there are some body bags down there if that keeps going," when a ball was rolling toward a water hazard, and joking that "bikini wax" is used to make Augusta National's greens so slick. The incident seems minor, but it was another example of the immense power the club wields. Two decades later, CBS still televises the Masters, but McCord, still an otherwise vital part of the network's golf broadcasts, remains banned from being part of the coverage.

Related: 15 signs you watch too much golf on TV

"There's no going back in time. That's who I am. That's what I did," McCord said in an interview with USA Today last year.

There's no going back in time for Tiger, either -- but it's fun to look back. Draining a clutch putt to win a huge tournament? That's who he was. That's what he did. Twenty years later, it's just as impressive.

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Fantasy Golf

Fantasy Fix: Can Brandt Snedeker pull a Hunter Mahan in Boston?

The first week of the FedExCup Playoffs produced plenty of drama, a few surprises and another close call for Jim Furyk. In other words, it was like most weeks on the PGA Tour this year. But of course, it was different since what happened in Paramus doesn't stay in Paramus. The FedEx Cup points earned at the Barlcays will have a huge impact on the final three legs of the playoffs. This week, players move on to Boston for the Deutsche Bank Championship, and fantasy owners get an extra day to set their rosters with the Friday start. Who do we think will be leaving Beantown in good spirits come Monday night? A look at our weekly Yahoo! fantasy lineup:

The Grind: Tiger and Sean consciously uncouple and Win McMurry's ice bucket fail

Starters -- (A-List): Adam Scott. If we keep picking him, he has to win eventually, right? Scott won the inaugural Deutsche Bank Championship by four shots in 2003.

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(B-List): Jason Day. Same for this Aussie. Day contended at the PGA Championship and is coming off a T-2 at the Barclays. He was T-2 at TPC Boston in 2010 and T-3 in 2011.

Related: 15 signs you watch too much golf on TV

(B-List): Rory McIlroy. We've got three starts remaining for the World No. 1 and we plan on using him in the season's final three tournaments. It doesn't hurt that he also won this event in 2012.

(C-List): John Senden. We'll keep our Aussie tea party going with a guy who hasn't shot an over-par round at TPC Boston since the first year of the FedEx Cup Playoffs (2007). Senden has top-12 finishes in three of his last four starts in this event.

Bench/Backups: Brandt Snedeker, Hunter Mahan, Jim Furykand Charl Schwartzel.

Related: Hunter Mahan's incredible run of ball-striking

Knockout/One-and-done pick: Brandt Snedeker. The prospective Ryder Cup captain's pick has three top-six finishes in his last four trips to Boston, including a T-3 in 2011. After missing the cut at the Barclays, this is his last chance to impress captain Tom Watson like Hunter Mahan did last week. As Watson says in that MasterCard commercial, c'mon, "Sneeedeker."

Previously used: Keegan Bradley (Doral), Tim Clark (Sony), Jason Day (Congressional), Graham DeLaet (Phoenix), Luke Donald (Valspar), Jason Dufner (Bridgestone), Rickie Fowler (Honda Classic), Jim Furyk (Heritage), Sergio Garcia (British Open), Bill Haas (Farmers), Charley Hoffman (Travelers), Billy Horschel (Zurich), Charles Howell III (Humana), Freddie Jacobson (Valero), Dustin Johnson (Northern Trust), Zach Johnson (Colonial), Matt Kuchar (U.S. Open), Martin Laird (Kapalua), Hunter Mahan (Canadian), Graeme McDowell (Bay Hill), Rory McIlroy (PGA Championship -- WINNER!), Ryan Palmer (Memphis), Justin Rose (Memorial), Adam Scott (Masters), Webb Simpson (Wyndham), Jordan Spieth (Houston), Henrik Stenson (Players), Jimmy Walker (Pebble -- WINNER!), Nick Watney (Barclays), Gary Woodland (Nelson).

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News & Tours

Rebuilding Tiger's psyche will be harder than fixing his swing

World-class athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs and Navy SEALs have common traits that make them the ultimate competitors. But the wiring that makes them great at those jobs also makes them vulnerable to certain kinds of problems. 

Problems like the ones Tiger Woods has right now, says Dr. Michael Lardon. 

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Lardon is a clinical psychiatrist who has worked with SEALs, CEOs, PGA Tour players and other elite athletes for more than 20 years as a peak performance coach. He's helped players on the rise learn how to handle pressure and SEALs who come to the end of their deployment learn how to transition into civilian life. He talks about his work with Phil Mickelson and other golfers in his new book, Mastering Golf's Mental Game, which was excerpted in last month's Golf Digest. 

Lardon has never treated Woods, but he sees the threads common to "alpha predators" at the top of the competitive food chain who go through a crisis when they're past their peak. "It's an unusual situation for them to be in -- being the one who needs help," says Lardon, who is a consulting psychiatrist to the United States Olympic teams at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. "You're the ultimate predator, you've been dominant in a hyper-competitive environment and you feel invincible. But when you can't do some of the things you used to do, it presents a new set of challenges. A lot of them can't do it."

Woods' search for a Sean Foley replacement is probably the least complicated part of this process. "From my point of view, a new teacher isn't that big of a deal. That's familiar territory for him," says Lardon, who has also worked with Erik Compton, Rich Beem and David Duval. "A big piece is injury. His body is breaking down. On top of that, the talk about 19 majors has been so deafening for so long, and he's gone more than six years without winning one. That's intense pressure -- something he hasn't ever really had to deal with."

And the fallout from Woods' well-publicized personal problems in 2009 goes beyond an expensive divorce settlement. "He used to be the PGA Tour's rockstar, but now the crowd is split," Lardon says. "Even if you say you don't care about things like that, it's a different dynamic when you go out to play. And saying that he is putting his kids first might make him a better person, but it won't necessarily make him a better golfer. He's going from having this solitary focus on golf to taking his kids to school every day. Real life has become a hurdle. And he has to deal with the fact that his kids are going to know what happened, because it's all been so public. That's real emotional pain."

Fixing it will be an especially hard road for someone like Woods, who has stayed famously closed off from everyone except a small circle of friends and employees. "To get better, you have to get real feedback from somebody who understands the whole situation," Lardon says. "That reputation for being this ruthless guy is something that helped make him be a great player, but for this he's going to have to open himself up -- which will probably require a totally new mentality. He has to re-assess his goals. He's not going to be in his physical prime again, so how does he maximize what he has and be more efficient? A swing coach is just one of the experts he should see."

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