Tiger readies putting stroke for Bay Hill by revisiting late father's methods
Tiger Woods tees it up in a group with Gary Woodland and Dustin Johnson for the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week, and the 14-time major champion is preparing to be the short man of the trio. "I'll be the Corey Pavin of my group," said Tiger, provoking laughter in the pressroom. "Seriously. I'll just kind of put it out there in play and put it up on the green and try and make putts. Those guys will be bombing it way out there past me."
The press gang might have been inclined to chuckle again at the Tiger's game plan. Regarded as perhaps the best clutch putter of all time, since the sapping personal troubles of the past 18 months Tiger has slumped to a lowly 101st in the putting average statistics for 2011 and fallen to a frankly dismal 178th in putts per greens in regulation for the season so far.
Mindful of his lack of form with the short stick, Woods was eager to stress he had identified the problem, and the solution.
"I think it's more practice, plain and simple. I had not practiced my putting as much as I had in years past, and consequently, I became more of a streaky putter.
"There are times when I get in these streaks where I don't miss and there are times where I don't hit the hole from whatever the distance.
"I've never been that way. I've always been a pretty consistent putter day-in and day-out and I'm getting back to that. This year, I've got I think much better with my speed.
"I've gotten back to focusing on that and making sure my speed is good day-in and day-out. And consequently, this year, all of the rounds I've played this year, I've only had one 3-putt this year, which is good, that's a good sign. Just need to continue working on that."
Since Woods could stand long enough to stroke a putt, his late father Earl had been his putting mentor. The fabled story is that Earl would have his son practice his stroke while throwing balls in Tiger's path to hone his technique under pressure.
After the extended aberration of form over the past year or so, Woods is ready to return to the drills that were the foundation for his previously boundless success.
"I went back to all of my old stuff that my dad and I used to work on," said Tiger. "And that's when I felt that my stroke started becoming more sound, more solid, my speed became better.
"I don't know what that dude saw in my game, but he really knew putting and he knew my stroke. My dad really knew my stroke."
"And I miss him for a lot more reasons than just the putting, but as far as bouncing ideas off of him and what I was feeling and what he would say, I do miss that, certainly."
However, the restoration of his father's putting methods is not indicative that Tiger is ready to abandon the increasingly arduous swing changes with coach Sean Foley.
"The putting will come. The putting will come. The chipping will come. Because I'm learning a new release, so that's going to take time.
"But I know that I can do that. I've done it before. The swing changes, a little bit -- the margin of error is obviously a lot smaller when you're hitting a ball that goes 300-yards-plus versus a little pitch."
Woods conceded that the process with Foley was by no means complete, and divulged that the extent of his current swing modifications was greater than at any other point in his career.
"The changes I've made from Hank to Sean I think are bigger than what I was going through from Butch to Hank. I think they are bigger changes, and it's taken a little bit of time, but then again, I've showed some good signs of late.
"The Sunday round at Doral was back to what I know I can do. And then played well at Tavistock, and I've had good practice sessions so I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.
"But I know from just the work I've done, it starts with the putting stroke and it works its way out. Once I get the release dialled in with the putting and the chipping and the irons, then eventually the driver, everything just falls into line."