There was a long stretch on Morning Drive this a.m. about Tiger’s putting woes in Majors. The talking heads have essentially come around to what what The GolfBlogger has been saying for a couple of years now: The putts that Tiger used to routinely sink are not falling.
The entire swing rebuild discussion by the major golf media these past two years has been a red herring. If Tiger is bombing those “better than most” putts, his swing is not part of the discussion.
Think about what images of Tiger are etched in your mind in his glory days. Was it any particular long drive, or stiff iron to two feet? Unlikely. What I think we all remember is the “better than most putt,” the Nike ball “pose” before dropping in the hole, and the double bender from thirty feet. What highlights does television run over and again? Putting and Chipping. Those were the shots that, psychologically, drove his opponents to despair. Those were the shots that—once he was ahead—made everyone else melt down. Opponents would mentally concede his birdie putt once he was on the green. Knowing that Tiger was going to sink putt after putt, players would try to out-drive or out-iron him, resulting in miscues and poorly hit shots. And those in turn would add to Tiger’s lead.
The Golf Channel talking heads then wondered why he was sinking all those putts at Doral and in his other four wins this year. The answer to that is simple. He has played those courses so much that he knows exactly what the greens will do. That’s why half Tiger’s victories are on a small handful of courses. He dominates the courses and fields where he can dominate the greens. In military terms, he’s the general who wins when he has his opponents heavily outnumbered, but struggles on an even field.
Here’s a big statistical project for someone. Compare Tiger’s Stokes Gained In Putting in Majors for his glory years versus the field, and then his Strokes Gained In Putting in Majors for his wilderness years. My guess is that you’ll see the difference there.
Here’s a Tiger vs Phil breakdown for this past weekend, courtesy of GolfBlogger reader Drew.
Tiger – 5th
Phil – T37
Greens in Regulation
Tiger – T5
Phil – T27
Tiger – T8 (13)
Phil – T2 (16)
Tiger – T15 (26)
Phil – T3 (31)
Tiger – T28 (5)
Phil – T77 (3)
Phil – 29.25
Tiger – 30.75
Tiger is even par if he has the same number of three putts as Phil. Then he’d only need four of those famous bombs over four rounds to win the Open Championship.