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The Putting Trials of Tiger Woods

The hyperventilating over Tiger Woods’ golf game has hit a fever pitch on the eve of the PGA Championship.

Indeed, Woods was asked this week how it feels to have gone “from the No. 1 player in the world to, like, one of the worst players on the planet?”

To which Woods smartly quipped, “The good thing is even though I’m one of the worst players on the planet, I might be able to beat you, so I do feel good about that.”

On a more serious note, a story in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated wrings its hands over the state of Woods’ game, and particularly his putting game. The premise of the story is that Woods’ performance tailspin didn’t begin with the fire hydrant collision in November, but rather with Y.E. Yang’s triumph over Woods in the final round of last year’s PGA Championship.

The story states, “The truth is that the Tiger Woods Era ended…exactly one year ago. Tiger’s knack with the flatstick has been AWOL ever since.”

Okay, now let’s review some of Tiger’s post-PGA Championship results from 2009: Tied for second at the Barclay’s, won the BMW, tied for second at the TOUR Championship, and won all five matches before holing the winning uphill 10-foot birdie putt for the U.S. victory at the President’s Cup (during which he dominated Yang). On smaller stages, he also won the JBWere Masters in Australia and the Notah Begay Foundation Challenge.

Amazing how he accomplished all of that with an AWOL putter, eh?

Now, there’s no question that Woods’ game is a bit of a mess right now (at least by his standards). But are we truly to believe that his troubles have more to do with Y.E. Yang than with his precarious standing with his wife and kids, not to mention the public flogging that ignited a prolonged layoff, and that no doubt unshackled personal demons that linger today?

If it’s Yang vs. the Demons, we’re voting for the Demons.

Quite frankly, it’s humbling to see Woods struggle with his putter (be it his Scotty Cameron putter or his brief Scottish fling with the Nike Method putter). It’s easier to comprehend his driver getting out of whack, as there are so many moving parts with the full swing. Also, a certain unpredictable violence off the tee has been a signature of Woods for quite some time.

But if there was one thing we could always count on with Woods, it was his extraordinary (verging on supernatural) putting game. But not right now. Is it rust? A confidence issue? A subtle mechanical flaw? The personal turmoil? A pocket full of Kryptonite? Or a combination thereof?

It’s hard to say. But one thing is for sureeven if he continues to struggle on the greens at Whistling Straits, he’s still a long, long way from being “one of the worst players in the world.”

About Sean Weir

Sean Weir is the founder and editor of PutterZone.com, and the author of Putter Perfection, the definitive guide to putter fitting. Profile: Google+

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  1. It seems to me that he's become impatient with every aspect of the game. He's not making any reads correctly, getting dejected very easily, and then losing focus. His stroke doesn't seem to be the issue… he's just not reading the greens like he used to. All weekend at Firestone he was taking all of 5 seconds to pick his shot and go.

  2. Good observation. The impatience then yields poor results, causing more frustration, which no doubt feeds the impatience. His head is probably just not in the game, for understandable reasons.

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