Tiger Woods used to wield a magic putter. That was his trump card, the single biggest reason he enjoyed such a dominant run as the world’s premier golfer.
Now it’s Tiger’s putter that has his ongoing comeback bid on hold. Simply put, until Tiger steadies his game on the greens, he’s no threat to become a regular winner on the PGA Tour, let alone secure the four major victories needed to tie Jack Nicklaus atop the all-time list with 18.
Look back to last week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, when Tiger stood over a five-foot putt for a birdie that would extend his second-round match with Nick Watney. For the Tiger of old, that putt would’ve been all but automatic.
But we’re not dealing with that Tiger. Instead, he pushed the ball right of the hole, as he had numerous times in his two days in the desert.
Very makeable putt. Bad miss. And Tiger was heading home much earlier than expected.
Similar woes with short putts cost Tiger dearly in his Sunday showdown with Phil Mickelson earlier in the month at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Tiger sat just one stroke out of the lead on the sixth hole, but his erratic putter played a big role in three-straight mid-round bogeys. Mickelson shot a 64 to win. Woods wobbled to the finish with a 75, including a three-putt on the 18th, and was nine back.
In both tournaments, Tiger’s ball-striking was crisp, and he surely delighted in leaving himself scoring opportunities aplenty. But for all the progress he has made under swing coach Sean Foley, Tiger’s game is being undermined by his struggles on the green.
After winning at Pebble Beach, Mickelson said he felt Tiger was on the cusp of a breakthrough, that Woods was “really close.”
But the difference between “really close” and winning in golf is enormous. And at this point, that gap for Tiger can be defined by the putts that aren’t falling.
Think back to your favorite Tiger Woods highlight. Chances are it’s of him holing a momentous putt and securing a major trophy in the process.
Until he rediscovers his clutch putting, don’t expect any more hardware to be coming his way.