Tiger Woods will be playing St Andrews this week in the British Open. We'll see whether he's got his putting together.
Tiger's caddie Steve Williams is not one to shade the truth in discussing Tiger's game. I noted earlier that Williams told Tiger in October 2006 that the only aspect of his game that needed serious improvement was his touch for lag putting. Williams then told Tiger that if he could go four days in a tournament without three-putting, that his usual 30% chance of winning would NEARLY TRIPLE to 85% and his earnings TRIPLE as well.
Apparently, Tiger hasn't been able to fix this part of his game over the past four years, even though it's the most critical aspect of his play that needs fixing. Here's what Williams says about Tiger's putting today four years on:
Williams: Tiger's expectations never change
In 2005, Tiger Woods became the youngest and fastest player to win all four major championships twice when he captured the Open Championship at St. Andrews, where he defeated Colin Montgomerie by five strokes. Woods' caddie, Steve Williams, sat down with PGATOUR.COM's Brian Wacker about the state of Woods' game as he returns to the home of golf for the 138th Open Championship.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer
What’s the state of Tiger’s game as he returns to St. Andrews?
The one part of Tiger’s game this year that has been very sub-standard is his putting. He hasn’t putted well in any of his events. The key to playing well at St. Andrews is putting. The greens are very generous so you don’t miss that many greens. The practice rounds will be paramount in spending a lot of time on the greens getting a feel for lagging putts. You can have a lot of 40-, 60-, 80-foot putts there and if you complete the week without a three-putt, you’re going to be near the lead.
What are your expectations for him this week and this season; have they been tempered at all?
Expectations never change. When you enter a tournament, you’re trying to win the tournament. What’s been different this year is his form hasn’t been that great. I can see it’s been a lot more difficult for him to turn it around during a tournament. Obviously that back nine was brilliant Saturday at the U.S. Open, but outside of that it’s been a bit of a struggle. But you never change your expectations. The idea is to get in contention on the back nine on Sunday.
How close is he to doing that?
When you can start holing a few putts that can change your whole confidence and the way you see the course. When you know you’re putting well that turns everything around. When he can have a good week and start putting well that will turn the whole year around.
Tiger has been renowned throughout his career as being such a great putter; how frustrating has it been that his putting has been sub-standard?
Putting is the key element -- that’s the difference between winning and not winning and Tiger has had a lot of ups and downs with his putter. He’s renowned as a good putter based on the fact that he holes a lot of putts when you have to, but there’s been no consistency in his putting. It’s been poor in every tournament he’s played. It has been frustrating, no two ways about it. But he loves to play St. Andrews, he knows how to play the golf course, he knows links style golf and he knows what he has to do to perform well. I’ve made it very clear to him what he has to do and that the onus is going to be on putting.
At the AT&T National, Tiger missed 15 putts inside 10 feet, including a couple of short ones. That’s unusual for him.
The greens at St. Andrews, with the exception of a couple of greens, are very flat. When you’re playing on fast greens, you tend to miss a lot more putts. When you’re playing at St. Andrews, you can adjust your putting and hit higher up on the ball to get it rolling -- just doing little things like that will make a difference. You can have a lot of putts on fast greens from 15 feet, but you know if you have a run-out, you can hit it a considerable distance past the hole. That thought never comes into play St. Andrews. You have to putt with authority there.
What have your conversations been with Tiger this year? Is the golf something you work on together after his rounds or is that something he does on his own?
One of the things I do is keep a very detailed dialogue of Tiger’s stats -- more than what you’d find on ShotLink. We know the parts of the game he needs to work on. His game hasn’t been up to stretch, but he’s well aware of each area and what he needs to work on.
So how does he turn his putting around?
The last time we went to St. Andrews in 2005, we’d just come off finishing second at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst and basically that tournament was given away. Tiger had a great chance of victory and his putting let him down on the back nine. We went to St. Andrews and in every practice round he didn’t hit one chip shot; he just kept putting and putting. Not three-putting comes down to speed. If you get on the greens and have a wonderful feel for the speed, you start making putts. That’s what we’ll be working on.
That's not a great report. Nothing indicates Tiger is trying anything other than mass-dosing of the St Andrews greens experience in a short-fuse run-up to the Open start. Where's the skill? What about all the OTHER events he needs touch for?
We'll see how Tiger performs at St Andrews, but frankly I don't see that he's learning the fundamental skill.
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