Testy Tiger Woods talks putting at Honda Classic

Posted in What's News by on March 1st, 2012

When last we left Tiger Woods, he was missing a five-foot putt that bounced him out of the second round of the Accenture Match Play Championship and vowing that a quick fix was all he needed to reclaim his former glory as a maestro with the flat stick. As part of his tune-up for this week’s Honda Classic and, more important, the Masters, the subject of a new tell-all book went back to the teachings of an old master (no, not Hank Haney) for some clues about how to jar those must-makers that are no longer automatic.

“I just worked on just going back to my old basic with my dad, and some of the things that he taught me,” Woods said Wednesday during a sometimes testy exchange with reporters.

Tiger Wood

Woods has answered many an inquiry about his rebuilt golf swing but his virtuosity on the greens was never an issue — until he started missing putts as badly as he did the one on the 18th green last Thursday at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club. Three missed putts from within 10 feet over the final six holes in his match with Nick Watney, compounded with his awful putting at Pebble Beach two weeks earlier, sent Woods back to the tape for review.

What he saw was a golfer fighting his putter and needing some remedial work. “When I looked at the tape, I got away from some of those [basic] things. My posture was off. The way the club was releasing was off. A lot of things were off,” Woods said. “And just had to start from the get?go, just log in the rep, do my little tee drill…, and I built it from there.”

Ah, the famous Tiger Woods reps. With his larger swing under control, Woods is spending more time on his smaller motion — and the repetitions (including “almost four hours” the other day) seemed to be paying off.

“It started coming back, the flow and the stroke, and started feeling very good,” he said. “When I feel off with my alignment and my posture, I don’t make good strokes….Once I get my posture and everything lined up, putter just flows.”

The winner of 14 majors lapsed into some Tiger-speak — about hinging it when he worked with Butch Harmon, Hank being “more rotational,” and Sean Foley not so much. All very technical stuff he spent much time working on, no doubt. But when it came time to drain those six-footers, Woods conceded that he did what putting guru Dave Stockton Sr. told us he had to do — just stepped up and hit it.

“Ironically enough, when I have to make a putt down the stretch on the back nine, all of that’s out the window and I just putt,” said Woods, noting that pure instinct helped him drill the two putts he made to win last year’s Chevron World Challenge. “I know you’ve got to have certain fundamentals, but, if I get in the right posture…all of that can happen.”

Whether the familiar tips from Earl and his old intuition kick in in time to keep up with U.S Open winner Rory McIlroy, PGA champ Keegan Bradley, and a field studded with other stars at PGA National this week is the question of the moment.

Bradley, by the way, said Tuesday that, despite his New England roots, playing in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., seemed like a home game to him.

“I live just down the road [in Jupiter, where he and Woods belong to the same golf course],” he said. “When you’re home, you have a little more distractions and stuff you’ve got to think about and deal with.

Recalling some of the struggles he had with balancing work with demands from family and friends during last year’s Deutsche Bank Championship, the two-time tour winner noted that playing in your own backyard can be a challenge.

“There’s some positives and some negatives to a home event. I’m not 100 percent sure if I love it to be honest with you,” said Bradley, who missed the cut at TPC Boston. “When you’re home, you have a little more distractions and stuff you’ve got to think about and deal with.”

In other Tiger news, he’s really jazzed about Augusta. And, oh yeah, if you want to get on his good side, be sure to ask him about Haney’s new pamphlet. As Golfweek’s Alex Miceli can tell you, Woods just loves to gab about “The Big Miss.”

Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. View all her articles here. You may also follow Kay on Twitter @golfexaminer 

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