NAPLES, Fla. - There was a moment in the spring of 1999 when Tiger Woods was learning the swing Butch Harmon taught him that everything clicked. He had an epiphany and soon produced an extended run of dominant golf that rocked the sport.
It remains to be seen if Woods will ever refer to Feb. 14, 2011 as the day when the same type of thing happened in regard to what instructor Sean Foley is trying to get him to do.
To hear John Cook tell it, Woods' disappointing finish in Dubai last weekend -- where he faded out of contention after being one shot off the lead after 54 holes -- has been followed by some encouraging practice that had the former World No. 1 looking more like his old self.
Cook, a longtime friend of Woods, said Thursday at the ACE Group Classic that he spent Tuesday with him and Woods was relishing how he was hitting the ball after having had an important revelation Monday about his revamped swing.
"What he and Sean have been working on, he now really has a great understanding," Cook said. "As of like Monday, it clicked, it finally clicked to him on exactly where the face of the club needs to be at certain points, which really sounded to me kind of like old-school Butch, but with a better face angle on the backswing, which means, wow, that's something really good."
Cook described Woods' mood as upbeat. " He was really feeling something on Tuesday," Cook said. "Just to see the excitement he had on his face and the flight of the ball. He was explaining to me what was going on in San Diego and Dubai. He said it's way better and way different. And this only happened on Monday, and Tuesday he was just feeling it even more.
"We had a great chat about it, and he is so happy in his life outside of golf," Cook continued. "He wants to play well so badly that he's become one of us. He never had to struggle like that. He wants it so bad. Now he needs to get on the course and trust it and relax and just go play, because what I saw on Tuesday was vintage, vintage. He's in a place now where he doesn't think he has to hit that many balls now - he can just go play. He's not just grinding, grinding, grinding. He's got it."
According to Cook, recent frustrations haven't dulled Woods' goals. "He wants to be competitive again. He still wants the [major championship] record," Cook said. "Obviously, he wouldn't be working as hard as he is if he didn't. It will be good to get him back in contention and finishing the deal."
-- Bill Fields