Tiger Woods has been intrigued by Moe Norman since he first learned how the late Canadian legend swung the club. He told Golf Digest’s Jaime Diaz that “Only two players have ever truly owned their swings: Moe Norman and Ben Hogan.” That comment is on the cover of my new book Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius. There’s more in the book about Tiger’s views about Moe.
Now that the book is out, I thought I’d revisit the subject. Recently Tiger answered a few questions that I sent through to him. One of the things I wanted to know was how and when Tiger first became aware of Moe. He answered in an interview conducted by e-mail.
“I didn’t become aware of Moe until high school,” Tiger told me. “I remember I went to the local library and used microfiche and the big microfiche reader to do research on several different golf swings. From what I read, it seemed like the swings players believed in most were Hogan’s, Trevino’s, and Moe’s.”
His answer intrigued me. It was so old school: a youngster in high school researching by microfiche. It’s easy to picture Tiger sitting in the library in his hometown of Cypress, Calif. peering into the microfiche reader as pages scroll across, and coming across articles and images about Hogan, Trevino, and Moe.
I asked Tiger what he liked about Moe’s swing.
“I like that it was so repetitive,” he answered. “He hit about a one-yard pull every time. He hit a dead straight ball so he knew exactly what it was going to do.”
In Moe & Me, I relate a conversation I had during the 2011 Masters with Wally Uihlein, Titleist’s chairman and CEO. Titleist gave Moe $5,000 a month during the last years of his life, which Uihlein referred to as a “back-end scholarship” during our discussion in the clubhouse at Augusta National. Uihlein was emotional while speaking about Moe, and said that Moe was the only golfer Titleist ever tested who had zero sidespin on the ball. Later I spoke with Karen Gray, Titleist’s supervisor of research. She watched Moe hit balls during testing.
“To this day I’ve never seen anything like it,” Karen told me. “I couldn’t believe that he could hit shots with zero sidespin. You don’t see robots with zero sidespin.”
Tiger had said something similar during an interview with ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt.
“It’s frightening how straight he hits it,” Tiger said. “It’s like Iron Byron. The ball doesn’t move.”
That ball flight, ultimately, is what Tiger found so interesting about Moe. He told me, “He was able to repeat his swing and hit it straight ball after ball. Moe knew the nuances of his swing. He hit it so straight and there was never any curve. There were no surprises.”
No surprises. That must be an ultimate for a tour pro. The ideal would be to see the golf ball coming off the face of the club exactly as the player meant it to when planning the shot.
It’s something Tiger still seeks, of course, and it’s elusive. He’s playing the Wells Fargo Championship next week in Charlotte, and the Players Championship the following week. The focus will again be on him, and whether he can swing the club so that there are no surprises.
Moe did that, all his life. And that’s rare. No wonder Tiger was taken by what he saw when Moe’s swing came up on that microfiche reader some 20 years ago at his local library in southern California.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein