Tiger Woods should play golf alone every day for a month to find his swing, says former British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch.
"Tiger has issues with his swing. He keeps blaming his putting, but it's not his putting (that is the problem), it is his swing, and he needs to sort that out," Baker-Finch, now a commentator for CBS television, told Reuters.
Woods has played two events this year, finishing 80th at the PGA Tour's San Diego tournament and 41st at the European Tour's Dubai Desert Classic.
Baker-Finch worked the California event and watched the Dubai tournament on television, and he did not like what he saw from the Sean Foley-coached Woods.
The answer, said Baker-Finch, lies not in hitting thousands of balls on the range, but rather in the solitude of a couple of dozen quiet practice rounds before the Masters in April, where Woods will seek his 15th major title and first in six years.
"Tiger should shoot a score every day until his next tournament, not hit perfect shots on the range with Sean and TrackMan (a radar device players use to assess their swings)," said Baker-Finch.
"Just go play golf and enjoy getting it in the hole in the lowest number possible. I think that's what he used to do when younger."
Baker-Finch can relate to swing problems and paralysis by analysis because it was wayward driving that forced the Australian off tour only a few years after he won the 1991 British Open at Royal Birkdale.
"I think he (Woods) needs to go away and play golf every day for a month by himself and figure it out, because it's obviously not working, whatever he's trying to do.
"He doesn't look in sync to me. His swing and his body aren't matching up."
The Australian said it is hard to be confident and perform at a high level when you are thinking 'boy, what am I doing wrong?'
"It's obvious something is not right. He might go win Bay Hill by 10 shots again and two or three others on courses where he feels comfortable, but there was a time a decade or so ago when he was top-three every time he played."
Baker-Finch said Woods, despite his five wins on tour last season, was not the same player he was 10 years ago.
"Don't get me wrong, I think he's still capable of being number one in the world for another five years, but it's not the same Tiger we saw from 1999 to 2007."
Capable, yes. Likely, no, according to Baker-Finch, who thinks second-ranked Adam Scott will occupy the top spot at the end of the year.
"Adam possesses a magical swing and a natural ability and flair and he's quite possibly the best driver in the game," said Baker-Finch of the reigning Masters champion.
"He has no flaws. He's quite capable of overtaking Tiger this year. All the stars are aligned seemingly. Who apart from Adam is going to be number one at the end of the year?
"Maybe Rory McIlroy, but I think he's still in a little bit of a search. I don't think he's on top of his game yet, even though he's coming back. He shot 74 (in the final round in Dubai) and finished ninth, so he still has issues."
McIlroy, ranked sixth in the world, finished 2013 on an upbeat note by beating Scott at the Australian Open, but has yet to consistently recapture the brilliant form that had him at number one less than a year ago.
"I like what Rory is doing," Baker-Finch continued. "I think he's just got to get his confidence back. I don't see anything he needs to fix."
(Reporting By Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Larry Fine)