After an impressive run at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship over the weekend, Tiger Woods has now finished 3rd, 1st and 3rd in his last three individual outings. Setback? That sounds more like a comeback, doesn’t it?
Look, it’s one thing if you don’t like the guy and don’t want him to succeed. It’s also understandable if you want to ignore him like you would most third-place finishers in an overseas tournament. But if you’re going to analyze what he’s doing between the proverbial lines, there’s no denying that his comeback efforts have taken a sudden and stirring turn.
Sure, he didn’t win yesterday. Neither did major winners Rory McIlroy or Graeme McDowell, the two major winners who bested him in Abu Dhabi by a single stroke. Anyone saying they suffered a setback?
Tiger Woods was mired in tour mediocrity for much of last year. He had a run that looked like this: Withdrawal, 37th place, Cut, 30th place. Now compare that to his last three outings. Of course, he still has yet to win a serious tournament since his downfall. But doesn’t it stand to reason that re-learning how to win, and specifically re-learning how to close on Sunday, would be the final piece of any comeback puzzle, even for a guy like Woods?
So no, it wasn’t a setback. But we digress from the putter front…
Woods is still playing with the Nike Method 001 putter that we wrote about recently. It’s an Anser-style blade putter with a partial toe hang (for a better understanding of toe hang and it’s role in putter balance, read this piece on PutterZone.com), which makes it very similar in looks and balance to the old Cameron putter he used during his reign as golf’s top performer.
It’s easy to forget, however, that for most of 2011 he switched to a toe-down Nike mallet that was a departure in looks and balance. By returning to his familiar putter style, and producing increasingly better results along the way, it appears that Tiger is rediscovering his old putting groove.
There are some who say that putter balance has minimal or no impact on putting performance. But Tiger Woods switched to the mallet because he said he was having trouble releasing the putter head, and that the mallet helped on that front. That was a performance decision (and an example of how putter fitting and putting performance are interconnected). Now, Woods has apparently has recaptured his putting prowess to the degree that he no longer needs the added release oomph of a toe-down putter.
On Sunday in Abu Dhabi, Woods couldn’t find a fairway. But he one-putted nine times and needed just 24 putts to finish the round, and to scramble for par and third place. With alleged setbacks like this, it would be hard to bet against him winning again soon.