Tiger Woods has his back to the wall. He is heading into the last major of 2010 without winning a single tournament, let alone a major. What is his strategy to try to turn things around for 2010?
Tiger let his long-time swing coach, Hank Haney, go earlier this year. He has yet to formally announce a replacement.
I had the opportunity to attend the last day of practice for the 2010 PGA championship at Whistling Straits at Kohler, Wisconsin. I took photographs of the day. My observation is that Tiger is relying more on his caddy, Steve Williams for coaching. Additionally, he even seemed to spend some time giving putting tips from John Daly on the eve of the last major of 2010.
During the course of Tiger's August 10th PGA championship practice round, his caddy Steve Williams took a more active role in putting. Not just giving line advice, Williams used Tiger's driver to help him with a drill to help with alignment.
Tiger's putting has significantly dropped off in 2010 compared to previous years. Although not his only problem, he has noted it has not been good enough to allow him a chance to win.
Normally, a caddy lines a putt, gives a recommendation, hands you the putter and backs off. Here in putting during a practice round you see Steve Williams being much more active.
Williams appears to be looking for mechanical aspects of Tiger's putting stroke.
Tiger's practice round on the eve of the 2010 PGA Championship was cut short by a thunderstorm. After the rain had passed, Tiger and caddy Steve Williams went to the driving range.
Tiger had no swing coach watching him practice on the range. Additionally, there was no obvious filming going on to check his swing mechanics.
However, Steve Williams was actively involved in the practice. He uses a club to hold Tiger's head from drifting backwards during the swing. This seemed like a new activity for his caddy compared to Tiger's old practice routine.
With Steve Williams being more active in Tiger's swing practice, it remains unclear whether this is at Tiger's direction or something Williams has developed.
Regardless, this head stablizing maneuver took up a significant amount of the Tiger's preparation for the last major of 2010.
The 2010 PGA Championship may be Tiger's last major where he enters the championship as the number one rated golfer. Phil Mickelson closely trails Tiger and could overtake him this week.
Mickelson has a different model for his coaching. His coach Butch Harmon seen in the blue shirt in the photo is in charge of swing coaching. Mickelson's caddy takes a much more background role in Phil's swing.
Mickelson's caddy 'Bones' Mackay is seen behind Harmon in this picture and does not interact with Phil much during range practice.
During Phil's last practice before the PGA championship, his coach Butch Harmon was actively engage in the process. He followed Phil's swing mechanics and ball flight.
It didn't appear that Harmon was making many major suggestions, but provided support and humor during the practice session.
Tiger Woods is missing this interaction in making the decision to go without a swing coach.
I was able to catch some photos from Tiger's time on the putting range. What I saw was surprising as he spent quite a bit of time with John Daly.
Daly was practing with a coach and working on alignment. Tiger seemed to be interested in Daly's practice technique and spent time watching him putt. On Daly's Twitter feed, he said Tiger was helping him with his putting and telling him to use less left wrist.
Tiger would not typically be helping other players with their putting on the day before a major championship. He is typically very focussed and not distracted from his routine.
But Tiger's putting in 2010 has not resembled his performance in previous years. I would not be quite as surprised with his work with John Daly if he was putting well himself. But it seems like he is not only not playing well but has less commitment to his own improvement.
The photo above shows Tiger Woods working on a putting drill at the 2010 PGA championship.
Daly later commented on his Twitter feed that he was thankful to Tiger for his help with his putting.
Tiger's attempt to catch Jack Nicklaus with 18 major championships will hinge on his ability to return to his previous putting form. It is unclear whether attempting to help John Daly with his game will improve Tiger's own putting.
We will need to wait and see if Tiger's more active caddy will result in improved performance.
It seems like a large burden for your caddy to carry. Not only do you need to worrry about distance, course conditions, weather changes and the effects of wind, you start to worry about your player's head mechanics and alignment.
If Tiger fails to make the turnaround he needs, will his caddy, Steve Williams bear the brunt of the blame?
These photos seem to suggest that Tiger is looking for help with his swing and is trying to help others with putting when he is own putting is below par. Look for some changes in the off-season if Tiger is to make a return to his real form in 2011.