A lot can and will be said about Tiger’s victory at in the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Does it make him the favorite going into the Master? Is it a performance reminiscent of the Tiger of old? But one point is indisputable: Tiger won at Doral with his putter.
He finished the week with only 100 putts and 27 birdies, and he didn't miss a single putt inside of 10 feet. It was a remarkable exhibition.
By contrast, Phil Mickelson missed two five-footers on Sunday, and Greame McDowell missed three putts inside 10 feet in the final round, which allowed Tiger to put it on cruise control down the stretch.
Also, the fact that Tiger putted so well took pressure off the rest of his game. He didn’t have to try to hit every iron shot stiff; he didn’t have to bomb every tee shot; and he didn’t have to attempt to reach every par-5 in two.
Confidence in your putting allows you to relax and play the percentages with your long game. And when the pressure is off your drives and approach shots, you tend to hit those shots better because you make freer swings.
Nothing improves your attitude, your confidence and your score like good putting.
But Tiger’s putting prowess didn’t happen by accident. He had some help.
On Wednesday, Tiger took a lengthy putting lesson from his friend Steve Stricker, one of the best putters in the world and a man with the most mechanically sound stroke on the PGA Tour. Tiger didn’t get putting tips from his caddie or even his swing coach – he went to an expert that he trusted, someone who not only knew his game but knew the right method for making putts in tournament conditions.
Stricker told Tiger to square his shoulders to the line of the putt a little more – Tiger had gotten a tad open, which was causing him to come up and out of putts – and he had him get his hands a little higher and implement a slight forward press, leaning the shaft forward and de-lofting the putter so that the ball would roll truer off the face.
Those mechanical modifications clicked and allowed Tiger to then focus on his feel. The result was the fewest putts Tiger has ever had in his professional career and one of the most impressive wins he has put together in quite some time.
Most amateurs pay little attention to the mechanics of the putting stroke. They work on reading greens and gauging speed and on drills that develop feel, but they don’t go to experts to insure that their mechanics are solid. Those same amateurs would be the first to seek out professional help if they developed the shanks or if they were duck-hooking every tee shot out of bounds. But for some reason, a putting lesson never enters their minds.
Tiger knew better. When he needed a tip, he went to the best.
Your putting and your game would improve tremendously if you did the same.
Chris Czaja is the 2010 South Florida PGA Section Teacher of the Year and the current teaching professional at Boca West Country Club in Boca Raton, Fla. He can be reached at ChristianCzaja.com .